MINNEAPOLIS – Changing speeds to go along with pitch location has helped Jeff Samardzija get off to an impressive start in the Cubs’ rotation.
So why would the right-hander even think of challenging hitters in his next outing Saturday?
Consider it yet another effect of playing in the Twins’ roomy downtown ballpark. Target Field isn’t only kind to speedy gap hitters, it can also be a boon to power pitchers.
“I think it can help you be more aggressive throughout the game,” said Samardzija, who lasted just two innings in his previous outing against the Giants. “But as we saw in San Francisco it’s a huge park too and they still managed to battle, get my pitch count up and kind of take that aggressiveness away from me.
“I think the park has a little to do with it, but it also has to do with your gameplan, how you’re doing that day. If you feel good and your fastball location feels good it can probably help big time.”
Target Field is known to be hardest on left-handed power hitters. Left field isn’t nearly as difficult to clear the wall and Alfonso Soriano showed that center field can be conquered with his 431-foot home run in the first inning Friday.
So if he does go after hitters with velocity on Saturday, expect it to be guys swinging from the left side of the plate.
While he enjoys pitching in roomy ballparks it still isn’t his first preference.
“I look forward to a start with the wind is blowing in,” Samardzija said. “Or a nice crosswind so I can throw my sinker.
“It doesn’t matter where the park is. I just think you can’t let it dictate what you do in an outing but at times, especially when you have a guy like [Tony] Campana or Joe [Mather] out there in center with a lot of green to run around you can let them navigate it and if you leave a ball up you can kind of get away with a mistake. Big-league hitters can still hit it out of big parks so you have to be on your toes.”