Samardzija keeping head in game

Now that he’s not on the mound every fifth day, sitting and watching his Chicago Cubs teammates continue to compete hasn’t been easy for Jeff Samardzija.

“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” Samardzija said. “You get into a routine and your body knows when it’s ready to go. I’m not used to sitting and watching, it hasn’t happened in a long time. But there are other ways you can participate. If I can help out during a game, that’d be great too. Obviously, mentally, you can help out in certain situations, just paying attention in general. There’s always something you can learn.”

After tossing a career high 174 2/3 innings on the season, Samardzija was shut down for the year, finishing strong with a complete-game win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept 8.

Samardzija still expects to travel with the team and said that his routine has pretty much been the same as when he was pitching, except for that fifth day being a little vacant. Despite the fact that he’s no longer pitching, Samardzija knows the last two seasons have been crucial in his development.

“I think last year was (a breakout year), to tell you the truth,” Samardzija said. “Obviously this (season) is different, being a starter and facing guys as much as I did. But for me, mentally, last year was really big just with getting over that hump of getting big-league hitters out consistently.”

As for still contributing in some way over the next two weeks, Samardzija believes he could be an asset as a pinch runner. The athletic, former Notre Dame wide receiver has solid speed, however he’s aware there are a few people ahead of him on Dale Sveum’s list of pinch-hitters.

“Let him know it’d be Travis Wood before him or (Chris) Rusin, if Rusin’s not pitching,” Sveum said with a laugh. “(Samardzija’s) moved down the totem pole as far as the hitting goes. He finished with no extra base hits. All this promise. He got the starting pitcher stuff figured out, now he’s gotta spend the winter hitting.”

The benefit of being shut down is that Samardzija says he’ll be able to start his offseason workout regimen a month earlier than normal, beginning in December rather than January. As for whether he would be able to go full bore next season without the restraints of an innings limit, Samardzija left no doubt.

“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Samardzija said. “There should be no chains next year, whatsoever.”