Samardzija starting to fit the bill
Cubs' Rothschild says pitcher has shed football look
MESA, Ariz. -- For the first time since he signed with the Cubs, Jeff Samardzija looks more like a Major League pitcher than an All-American wide receiver.That was the evaluation from pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who told Lou Piniella that Samardzija used to look like a football player who was pitching. "This year, [Rothschild said] he looks like a baseball player who played football," Piniella said. "That's a big transformation, and that's a really profound statement as far as I'm concerned. It says he's making the adjustments and really stepping forward and looking like a Major League pitcher." "It's a good start, I guess," Samardzija said when told about the comments. "That's kind of been the plan since Day 1. Obviously, we knew there'd be somewhat of a learning curve. Like I said since I showed up and before I showed up, I've felt good. It's been a good carryover from the offseason." It's been hard to shed the football-player label. Samardzija did not want to be a two-sport star but committed to baseball full time when the Cubs drafted him in the fifth round in 2006. However, he did expect to make the jump to the big leagues a little quicker than he did. "The stubborn side of me didn't [think it would take this long] and expected it to happen overnight," he said. "The more realistic side of me knew it would take a little bit. It's been fun. The curveball has come along well. Obviously, there's some work to be done still." On Saturday, Samardzija had his second live batting-practice session. "Today was as good as I've seen him," said Koyie Hill, who caught Samardzija. "I know he's been doing a lot of work on his breaking ball. He got a lot of good reaction from hitters today. There were a lot of checked swings and a lot of swinging through the pitch. That means they're not seeing it very well, and that's good. It was sharp."
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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.