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Chicago Cubs: Jeff Samardzija Still Has Much to Prove as Team's Starter

MESA, AZ - MARCH 28:  Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija #29 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the spring training game at HoHoKam Park on March 28, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Jeff ChaseSenior Analyst IIMarch 29, 2012

Jeff Samardzija may be the newest man in the Chicago Cubs' 2012 rotation, but there is no guarantee that the former Notre Dame Fighting Irish star dual-athlete will be able to fulfill his new duty with the team.

According to ESPN's Doug Padilla, Samardzija beat out two-year starter Randy Wells for a spot in the rotation, a move which sent the latter down to the club's triple-A affiliate in Iowa.

As Samardzija said:

You don’t know how many of these opportunities you’re going to get to start. Once you become a reliever and have success, a lot of times that’s where you end up for your career. I really wanted to give this a full head of steam, a full shot and go from there. I’m excited for the season and I can’t wait.

Samardzija hasn't exactly been the greatest pitcher in his four years on the North Side, but he improved this past season to earn himself this opportunity.

From 2008-11, Samardzija had a career ERA of 4.40 through 169.2 innings. Those numbers wouldn't be as low if it wasn't for his strong second half last season, which brought his season ERA down from 4.54 in mid June to 2.97 when the 2011 season came to a close.

In his last 27 appearances of the 2011 season, Samardzija allowed just four runs. His turnaround at the end of the year was a sign of possible things to come, but his past history is an indicator that his future success is no guaranteed.

Guys like Wells and Travis Wood are readily waiting in the wings, and as the team moved their best reliever in Sean Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds this offseason, they may have to move Samardzija back into the role he succeeded in last season if he struggles out of the gate.

Samardzija started three games for the Cubs in 2010, and he didn't exactly have his best stuff on display. In 16 innings, he allowed 11 runs, eight of which came against the St. Louis Cardinals in his last appearance of that season.

Then again, this is two years down the line, and things may be different this time around.

His 2012 spring numbers were not terrible, but after giving up seven runs on 10 hits in just four innings, things haven't been looking perfect. He did however bounce back from that performance with a six inning shutout—a performance which earned him the spot he has been given.

Samardzija definitely did what was expected, and he got what he deserved. Now though, he has to go out and prove he can do that consistently. Otherwise, this opportunity may quickly disappear.

 

Jeff Chase is a Featured Columnist for the Chicago Cubs and Arizona State football.

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