High-energy Samardzija throttles Reds

CINCINNATI – The good news for Jeff Samardzija on Tuesday was that a week’s worth of rest yielded a dominating start.

The bad news was the same as the good news.

In five starts this season, Samardzija has been impressive three times, but it isn’t like he necessarily wants to wait another eight days before he gets to deliver another gem.

“I’m just going to stay on my toes here,” said Samardzija, who was held back a day this time through the rotation since it's his first year starting and then had to wait again when Tuesday's game was postponed. “When they tell me I can pitch and they let me loose then I’m going to go pitch.

“[The coaches] have been great with staying on the same page with me and what the future plan is and what my schedule is so we will adjust to what they want to do and when they want me to pitch and hopefully kind of stay on a good routine so we can have some good rhythm going.”

Samardzija was so full of energy during an outing when he gave up one run on three hits over 7 2/3 innings that he stalked around the infield as if he had an espresso IV and was throwing 96 mph well into the eighth inning.

“It feels nice to have warm weather, I’ll tell you that much,” Samardzija said. “You don’t have to warm up extra time and late in the game you can keep it going and your arm still feels good. It’s amazing what a difference it makes. Late in the game like that I wanted to get back on my fastball and pound the zone.”

He dropped his ERA to 3.41 and looks to be in a duel with Matt Garza for most productive starting pitcher on the staff. If the Cubs eventually come to terms on a contract extension with Garza, the Cubs could have the chance to have a formidable duo at the head of the rotation. But that assumes Samardzija continues to build off his impressive start.

“When you have a one-two, that’s what you’re really striving for when you get to postseason,” manager Dale Sveum said. “You can pitch four of the games in a seven game series so it’s huge. Then if you can mix in a three and a four you have something.”

But first things first for the first-time starter: Samardzija is going to have to repeat things over and over and over again before he can be considered a rotation stalwart. So far, though, the Cubs couldn’t have asked for anything more.

He was getting ahead early in the count Wednesday, which is the common trait of all three of his solid starts.

“That’s so vital, especially with a guy that has a couple of out pitches with the slider,” Sveum said. “He has a devastating split when it’s on and if you can get ahead of hitters that’s a huge pitch to have but you have to get ahead to use it.”

What is starting to happen now is that the Cubs realize they have another starter they can trust and have started to feel pretty good about themselves in the past 10 days or so.

“We didn’t have a team meeting to say this is a rebuilding year,” Samardzija said. “We just kind of skipped that altogether. We want to win games. Every day you get a new chance to win a game. We might have to do it a different way than say the Yankees or somebody but pitching and defense goes a long way.

“It is a learning process, though, with this team, a lot of new guys and everybody is getting to learn each other. We’re just going to keep getting better every day and whoever we’re playing we’re just going to give them what we’ve got.”