Samardzija left to await word on role
Righty one of four remaining Cubs rotation candidates
MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija made his case for a spot in the Cubs' rotation on Monday but will have to wait until the end of the week to find out.
The right-hander gave up two runs on four hits and two walks over four innings against the Cleveland Indians in his third Cactus League appearance. He took the loss in the Indians' 9-2 win.
"It was fun to go out and show them what we've been working on," Samardzija said. "I thought I threw downhill well today. I thought I threw some really good fastballs that they didn't put the bat on."
Of his strikeouts, three came on his split-finger pitch and one on his changeup. He was able to mix his pitches well and has bounced back from a wakeup call outing against Milwaukee on March 12. In that game, which was his first spring start, he gave up four runs on five hits, including two homers, over two innings.
"It kind of opened your eyes in Milwaukee and [I] realized what we need to work on," he said.
Samardzija, 25, is competing for one of two openings in the rotation, but Cubs manager Lou Piniella has said he wants at least one lefty while the team waits for Ted Lilly's return. That means that Samardzija is actually going head to head with Carlos Silva for a spot while lefties Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall are facing off. Marshall starts Wednesday, Gorzelanny on Thursday.
"Silva has been throwing the ball great, too," Samardzija said. "Hopefully, I'll get out there again and we'll see what happens."
"The whole thing is, 'How does it benefit the ballclub the best way?'" Piniella said. "We have a lot of young kids in that bullpen. We have to have a little experience. We've let all four compete and we'll be as fair as fair can be. ... It's not going to be a clear-cut decision, but at the same time, it's a decision that has to be made."
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All four rotation candidates have made it clear they would prefer to start, but two of the four will wind up in the bullpen. Samardzija didn't do as well last season with the big league team as he did in 2008, but he shuttled back and forth between the Cubs and Triple-A Iowa.
"Everyone wants to help this team win, and that's what it's all about," Samardzija said. "Not to beat it into the ground, but I've said what I want to do is start. I'll put my heart into it and we'll see what happens in the end."
Will he be disappointed if he's in the bullpen? Samardzija did have success there in '08, compiling a 2.28 ERA in 26 games as a reliever.
"I guess we'll see," he said. "I'd love to get out there again [and start]. We'll see what happens. I'm sure Lou already has a plan as to what he wants to do. We'll see what he has to say."
Samardzija has shown improvement, though.
"He's keeping the ball down better, he's using his changeup more effectively," Piniella said. "I liked his stuff today."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.