Samardzija has look of No. 3 starter

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum named Ryan Dempster his Opening Day starter and Matt Garza his No. 2, leaving the door wide open for Jeff Samardzija to pitch the third game of the season against the Washington Nationals on April 8 at Wrigley Field.

Sveum said Paul Maholm will be his fifth starter, leaving what appears to be a battle between Chris Volstad and Samardzija for the third and fourth rotation spots.

”It’s very important to set a tone,“ Sveum said. ”It’s not going to be the easiest schedule to start out with against [Stephen] Strasburg, [Gio] Gonzales and [Jordan] Zimmerman then we have the Brewers staff coming in after them.”

Samardzija was a dominant set-up man for the Cubs last season with a 2.97 ERA in 75 relief appearances. The front office, then led by GM Jim Hendry, told him he would be given a chance to start in 2012. The new front office, knowing that the rotation lacked power arms, followed through with that commitment even though the bullpen needs set-up men as well.

”There is no doubt you say (you need bullpen help) all of the time,” Sveum said. ”You never doubt the importance of a 6-foot, 6-inch, 230-pound horse on the mound (every five days) either. Every organization thrives on guys doing that when you can develop or acquire a guy like that.”

Samardzija, who began working for a rotation spot in November, has struck out nine without a walk in 10 innings over three starts this spring.

Sveum said he will make a decision on the final two rotation slots on Wednesday.