With the pressure on, Samardzija delivers

MESA, Ariz. – Jeff Samardzija has worked four straight months for this and with a decision on the starting rotation coming down to the wire, he wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass.

The right-hander pitched six scoreless innings against a left-handed dominated Cleveland Indians lineup, getting himself back on track after a rough outing last week.

Cubs coaches and front office personnel met Wednesday evening to not only hash out the 25-man roster but to consider lineup options and the rotation as well.

“I feel pretty good about things,” said Samardzija, who arrived in Arizona to begin working out way back in November. “Just looking at my camp as a whole, there’s really not much I can say other than that last outing. I feel great and obviously we’ll see what happens but I’m not too worried about it.”

Samardzija appears to have made his case despite giving up seven runs on 10 hits over four innings to the Colorado Rockies on Friday.

Working on changing speeds instead of trying to overpower hitters like he did against the Rockies, Samardzija kept hitters off balance even though seven of them were batting from the left side. He gave up just three hits and walked one while striking out five.

“I think that last start I was cruising through the whole spring feeling great and I just let that get to my head a little bit,” Samardzija said. “I just tried to throw instead of making great pitches and today I kind of slowed myself down, stepped off a few times, took a deep breath and threw what was the best pitch.”

It wasn’t just on the mound where he delivered. He also hit a triple to left-center field and in general made everybody on the Indians roster feel his presence.

“I just kept running. It was nice. It was fun man,” Samardzija said. “That’s why I wanted to start. That’s what I have been preaching for years now that I want to be an athlete. I want to hit, I want to run the bases, field my position and that’s been a big thing for me. To put it on paper and show I can do it means a lot to me.”

Samardzija showed the speed was there but the legs might be what they were when he was running pass patterns up and down the field at Notre Dame.

“I might not have the recovery as quick but you don’t have to run another triple after you run a triple,” he said. “It’s still there.”