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Samardzija focused on starting

Pitcher Jeff Samardzija was called up to the Cubs on Tuesday. Rob Grabowski/US Presswire

To say that right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija has had a rollercoaster three years in the Cubs’ organization would be a vast understatement. He was first used as a starting pitcher, then a reliever, then a starter again.

Finally this summer, Samardzija was left alone to concentrate on being a starter after failing to get the job done in the bullpen this April.

The former Notre Dame football All-American won 11 games at Triple-A Iowa after improving his command and honing his skills as a pitcher.

The always upbeat Samardzija evaluated his pitching now as compared to his pitching in the past.

“I think mostly it’s about being aggressive on the mound,” Samardzija said. “For me personally, I got out of a funk where I’d walk a few guys here and there. But ultimately, I’ve been battling all year. My pitches have gotten better just by throwing more and that’s going to continue to happen.”

The Cubs brought Samardzija up in late 2008 and he had some success out of the bullpen. However, after his split-finger pitch became less effective, he was left with a 95-mph fastball to try to get out major league hitters, which didn’t get it done.

A trip to Mexico last winter helped Samardzija gain some command of his slider and changeup, two pitches he desperately needed in order to go back and be successful in the major leagues.

With so many minor-league pitchers getting called up from Iowa in 2010, Samardzija was asked if it hurt him to be passed by so many times.

“It was hard at first,” Samardzija said. “Because we talked about me going down [to the minors] and getting right. I went down and I pitched my [butt] off for a while. It’s not in my hands. All I can do is go out and play, and that’s kind of what I came to. It’s a different experience being patient, but you learn a lot.”

Samardzija finally became a full-time starter in July, and for his sake, I hope the Cubs don’t make the mistake of putting him back in the bullpen again.

Samardzija is out of options going into 2011, so if he doesn’t make the 25-man roster next season, he’s subject to being claimed on waivers by another team.