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Cubs give chance to ... gulp ... a Packers fan

PITTSBURGH -- The newest Chicago Cubs pitcher is excited for his opportunity in Chicago while admitting that he will be somewhat of a fish out of water.

Jason Berken, who will take over Jeff Samardzija's spot in the rotation beginning with a start next Saturday, is not only a Green Bay native, but an actual Packers season ticket holder.

“I came to the NFC championship a few years ago, I was (in Chicago) for it,” Berken said of the Packers’ 21-14 victory over the Bears to advance to the Super Bowl. “It was a pretty awesome experience. Unfortunately I’m pretty die-hard.”

Just how die-hard? Berken’s tickets are on the 50-yard line and the season-ticket account has been passed along through four different family members among three different generations going back to the late 1960s.

The tickets were first owned by his great aunt, passed along to his grandfather and then to his mother before Berken took them over last season.

He actually resides full time in Atlanta, but comes back to Green Bay a few times each winter to see games. The tickets he doesn’t use go to other family members.

The tickets the family will be looking for next Saturday, though, will all be in Wrigley Field when Berken takes on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The right-hander, who spent nearly all of the season at triple-A Norfolk, was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles on Friday. The Cubs decided earlier in the week that Samardzija would be shut down after one more outing for precautionary reasons, namely that his innings count was getting high in his first year as a starter.

Berken, whose minor-league season had just ended when he was designated for assignment by the Orioles, was glad to get the call informing him that his season wasn’t finished just yet.

“It’s a pretty awesome opportunity,” said Berken, who has a career 10-17 major league record, with a 5.40 ERA over four seasons with the Orioles. “I’m extremely excited and I appreciate the opportunity as well.

"I thought I had a pretty good year in Triple-A this year and fortunately the work paid off in the end so I’m excited about being here. ... A lot of my family is Cubs fans so this is an exciting opportunity and I couldn’t be happier with the way things have worked out.”

He went 5-6 with a 3.50 ERA at Norfolk over 26 starts this season.

“I feel great,” Berken said. “The last month of the season was probably my best month so I feel I was able to maintain throughout the course of the year and I feel strong right now. I feel good. I think the change of scenery and being up here gives you that little bit extra for the rest of the year.”