09/02/09 2:13 PM ET
Patton activated; Samardzija back soon
Minors pitching coordinator sees progress in youngsters
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Mark Riggins, the Cubs' Minor League pitching coordinator, has watched Samardzija and sees the right-hander making progress. In August, Samardzija was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in three starts, striking out 13 over 14 innings. In his last outing Friday against Oklahoma City, he struck out six over six scoreless innings, giving up three hits.
Riggins connected with Samardzija when he was sent down to the Minors after appearing in 17 games with the Cubs.
"He's looking really good, he's on top of the ball very well, his arm slot is up," Riggins said of the young right-hander. "He's commanding the ball a lot better. It's a plan that Larry [Rothschild, Cubs pitching coach] put in place that we carried out."
One thing Samardzija has hinted at is that he prefers starting over relieving. Maybe it has something to do with his football background, and that he's more comfortable with a routine.
"Some guys are built to be starters, some guys are built to be relievers," Riggins said. "I think Jeff prefers [starting]. At the big league level, you'll do whatever it takes to help the team win. He does like starting, and he's more comfortable preparing for a start.
"He wants to be good, and the more time he can get to work on things, the more time and preparation, it helps him become a better pitcher."
Samardzija, a fifth-round pick in the 2006 Draft, did get his first big league start this year on Aug. 12 against Philadelphia, but it wasn't memorable. He gave up seven runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings.
"He wants to be right when he does [get to the big leagues]," Riggins said. "I've been through this before with very good pitchers who come to the big leagues. It's a time of adjustment.
"He doesn't want to go out there and embarrass himself or lose games for the Cubs, he wants to win games for the Cubs. He wants to perfect everything. He doesn't have that many innings professionally, and he has a huge amount of talent. Now it's just a matter of him harnessing that and getting comfortable and feeling like he can win, instead of just going out and pitching."
Patton, whom the Cubs selected in the Rule 5 Draft, has been sidelined with a groin injury since July 6. In eight rehab outings at Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa, he was 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA and a .222 batting average against.
The Cubs' decision to keep Patton in the system and not return him to the Colorado Rockies was encouraging to the right-hander.
"The [Cubs] organization likes me, and it goes both ways," Patton said. "I really like the organization. They've taken care of me real well. I'm going to move forward and see what we can do here in September."
He was able to throw in back-to-back games Saturday and Sunday, and felt good in the two games. Patton had not pitched above the Class A level until this season, when he broke camp with the Cubs. It was quite a jump.
"Everything has been a learning experience ever since Spring Training," he said. "You've just got to take the good with the good and run with it. As long as you have the opportunity, as long as you have a jersey, you can still be able to play this game, it doesn't matter where you're playing. As long as you stay with it and stay focused and have the right mindset, it'll be all good."
Patton will likely play in the Mexican League this winter and add about 20-30 innings.
Riggins saw all of the Cubs' Minor League pitching prospects. He liked the three C's -- Chris Carpenter, Casey Coleman and Andrew Cashner -- who are now together at Tennessee. All three were selected in the 2008 Draft.
Carpenter, a third-round pick, began the season at Class A Peoria, where he was 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 15 games, then moved up to Class A Daytona, where he posted a 2-1 record and 1.44 ERA in five games. At Tennessee, he was 0-2 with a 4.28 ERA.
Coleman, a 15th-round selection, has spent the entire season with Tennessee, going 14-6 with a 3.64 ERA in 26 starts. He's struck out 82 over 146 innings.
Cashner, the Cubs' No. 1 pick, compiled a 1.50 ERA in 12 games at Daytona, giving up seven earned runs over 42 innings. At Tennessee, he was 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 11 games.
"It's pretty phenomenal that we have kids out of the Draft at the Double-A level already," Riggins said. "They're all coming along really well."
Other pitchers who impressed Riggins this year included left-hander John Gaub, acquired from Cleveland in the Mark DeRosa deal, who was pitching at Iowa; and right-hander Brian Schlitter, picked up from Philadelphia in the Scott Eyre trade in August 2008.
Other players to watch include Rafael Dolis, who was 3-9 with a 3.54 ERA in 26 games (24 starts) at Daytona, and sidearm closer David Cales, who collected 14 saves and a 0.78 ERA in 37 games at Daytona and two saves and a 6.75 ERA in 14 games at Tennessee. Cales, a Chicago native who played at Mount Carmel High School, was a 24th-round pick in the 2008 Draft.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.