Cubs spring training blog. There's a new Samardzija in town.
Many of the Cubs have come to camp with a spring in their step but none is more focused than Jeff Samardzija. After years of not living up to his expectations the light has apparently turned on for the Notre Dame alum.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” Samardzija said a day after his first throwing session. “When I competed in ‘08 for a spot I didn’t really put too much into it. I figured you just went out and had a couple of starts and they put you in the rotation and that’s how it went. I’m a little more aware of it now and the seriousness of camp and especially for that rotation, I’m taking it very serious.”
Samardzija seems to realize now that he needs to put in the work to land in the starting rotation.
“I’ve been here for four months now working out for just that with the understanding that’s where I wanted to be and that’s what I wanted to do. That’s all that’s been on my mind since the end of the season last year and I haven’t worked for anything but that. I don’t have too many hobbies. It’s really all about baseball.
“They’re giving me the opportunity but they’re not handing me the ball every fifth day. I want to prove to them that pitching every fifth day is what best for this team. I prove that by having a good spring training, showing them how I’m working, showing them I’m ready to prepare for this long season.”
Samadzija’s focus has gotten the attention of the staff.
“He’s obviously a different guy then he was a year ago or two years ago,” Skipper Dale Sveum said. “His confidence level is on a peak level and he’s on a mission right now.”
Sveum also confirmed that Paul Maholm is pretty much locked in as the third starter (as if there was any doubt?). That leaves Samardzija, Randy Wells and Chris Volstad competing for two starting spots.
Volstad who came from Miami in the Zambrano “trade” said he’s just looking forward to playing in front of…well…a crowd.
“The fans in Chicago as everybody knows come out every game,” Volstad said with a smile. “It’s gonna be awesome. Coming here as a visitor it was always exciting just because you knew the crowd was going to be into it the whole game. Having them have MY back as the home team is going to be pretty incredible.”
Position players arrive on Thursday but most are already here including David DeJesus who I sat down with for a one-on-one interview. DeJesus seems like a great guy and is genuinely excited to play at Wrigley. His wife is from the area and grew up a Cubs fan. So we joked that winning a World Series as a Cub not only would get him forever remembered in Chicago but would help his marriage as well. If he performs he’s going to be a fan favorite. That will be a “7 on your Sideline” piece for later so look for that in the coming weeks.