Come to Think of It: Something Old, Something New, Someone Will Be Blue

Bob Warja@@bobwarjaSenior Writer IAugust 12, 2009

Wednesday night in Wrigley Field, the Cubs and Phillies will match up in the second game of the three game set with opposites on the mound. It's a presentation of the "Old Man and the Sea", only there are "sharks" in this sea. 

Yes, the "Shark", Jeff Samardzija, at the tender age of 24, makes his first career start for the Cubs tonight. Meanwhile, Pedro Martinez makes his season debut for the Phils.

At 37, Martinez is in the latter stages of what may be a Hall of Fame career. Despite the age difference, there are some similarities between Pedro and Jeff.

Like Martinez when he was young, Samardzija throws hard. Both started their careers out of the bullpen.

Pedro worked primarily out of the bullpen during his first two seasons with the Dodgers, although he enjoyed more success in that role than Samardzija has thus far.

As a 21-year old in 1993, Pedro went 10-5 with a 2.61 ERA in 65 games, two of them starts. Similarly, The Shark enjoyed some success in his rookie season in 2008, albeit in many fewer games.

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However, while Pedro continued a steady rise into the rotation, Samardzija has struggled in limited time with the big club in his sophomore season. His K's are down and his hits allowed are way up. His ERA in 16 games is an unsightly 6.29.

But Samardzija was pitching pretty well as a starter in Iowa before being brought up to the Cubs, and they hope he can continue that success as a starter on the big league stage.

It may be a limited audition, with Ted Lilly expected back soon.

Samardzija's main issue is that he needs more development work to gain better command on his secondary pitches. Other than his fastball, which lacks movement, The Shark doesn't really have an "out" pitch that he can rely on yet. 

You might be able to fool hitters the first time or two through the order, but once a major league hitter faces you for the third time, you had better have something other than a fastball to offer.

Both of tonight's starters figure to be on a relatively short leash. The Cubs say five or six innings and about 85 pitches should be the limit for Samardzija, though if you ask him, he will tell you adrenaline alone will allow him to go much further.

He figures to have some butterflies given that this is his first-ever major league start. The former Notre Dame wideout is now throwing the passes, not catching them, and he will have plenty of support from the stands.

The added pressure of trying to stem the latest Cubs bleeding doesn't help either. The team has lost five of six and has looked very sloppy in doing so.

But this start is important to Martinez, too.

If Pedro wants to pitch next season and beyond, he has to prove himself all over again. Signed to a pro-rated $2 million dollar contract by Philly, he bumped the even more ancient Jamie Moyer to make room, so he will have to prove he belongs.

Good luck, Jeff. The way the team is playing lately, you will need it, come to think of it.

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