Now that his role has been defined, Jeff Samardzija is ready to shine during the 2011 MLB schedule. The Cubs have officially informed Samardzija that he is not going to be considered for either the 4th or 5th spot in the starting rotation this spring. The Cubs have continually waffled on where they saw Samardzija fitting into the team’s pitching staff since he was called up in mid-season in 2008. That indecision has probably cost Samardzija on his development as a pitcher, so now the Cubs are ready to commit to using Samardzija exclusively as a reliever in 2011. That should bode well for everyone involved.
Samardzija is out of options, so that means he either makes the Cubs opening day roster this spring or the Cubs have to release him to waivers once Spring Training ends. A team will certainly take a shot on Samardzija given the success he had in his first season in the pros when he appeared in 26 games during the middle of a pennant race and posted a nifty 2.28 ERA. He has struggled with his control a little bit since then, but at 26 years of age, he still has a ton of upside.
Samardzija is excited for the challenge and isn’t thinking about trying football in the future – “Obviously going back to football is always there in the back of your mind, but I’m not that kind of guy. I’m too locked into what I’m doing here with baseball. I would not be able to end how I’ve ended these last two years and say, ‘You know what, it’s been fun, and I’m going to go play football and for the rest of my life look back and see how I ended baseball on a sour note… I’ve got a lot of pride and when it comes to doing things I want to be good at things, I want to be great at things. Baseball is what I want to do, It’s almost become a nice little personal challenge here with what we’ve been through the last year or two. I really want to see how this thing ends up.”
I’m not the only one who feels like the Cubs messed up this situation by continually changing Samardzija from a starter to a reliever. ESPN Radio 1000’s Bruce Levine has been very vocal on how the Cubs should have defined Samardzija’s role more clearly and how not doing so probably stunted his growth a bit. Let’s hope the clarity this spring will mean good things for Samardzija out of the bullpen in 2011. The Cubs could use a solid option in the bullpen this season after dealing with way too many fresh faces in 2010. Good luck Jeff!