CHICAGO -- Maybe Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija really does have a bionic arm. Big pitch counts or rain delays, it doesn’t matter to the right-hander: He’s going to take the mound no matter what. Opposing teams must like what they see in his durability, and now interested parties must decide how much they like him as a pitcher.
Samardzija gave up four runs to the Washington Nationals in the fifth inning Saturday night, moments after a 55-minute rain delay came to an end. He wanted to keep going, but Cubs manager Rick Renteria had seen enough.
“It wasn’t Jeff’s day,” Renteria said after the 7-2 loss.
Scouts from no fewer than five teams saw Samardzija get hit hard -- Adam LaRoche and Wilson Ramos took him deep -- and then softly. Three seeing-eye singles combined with a hit batsman and an error by first baseman Anthony Rizzo ended his night. That's the fine line of pitching to contact, which Samardzija does more often than ever.
“You saw them be aggressive early in the count,” Samardzija said after giving up seven hits in five innings. “They know I’m going to throw a lot of fastballs and they want to attack when they get the chance. That’s where my fault comes in. I need to mix it up and start early with some sliders or some splitters. You’re always trying to get ahead in the count. If it’s with fastballs and they’re hunting fastballs, it doesn’t always work out.
“When you’re pitching to contact, that’s kind of the dice you’re rolling. You just understand in the long haul it’s going to work out in your favor more so than not.”
And it has worked for Samardzija this season, though June hasn’t been as kind as April and May. The 29-year-old right-hander didn’t want to break things down by month -- “we go start to start,” he said. But potential suitors will look at his June -- and of course his July -- more than at the beginning of the season. In fact, they don’t care much what he did back then. It’s about the now, and how Samardzija is pitching as the trade deadline approaches.
June is over and though his overall ERA is still sparkling at 2.83, Samardzija's past six starts have produced a 5.45 mark. July will be the determining month for him. Well, not so much for him, but rather for what the Cubs will get for him. Plus, he’s still learning his craft.
“They hit some fastballs over the plate,” Samardzija said. “Hit them up the middle and did a good job. I probably need to spin a couple more pitches, maybe give them a little different look.”
Looks are what other teams are giving him, and for the next 30 days a lot of eyes will be on every pitch he throws.