<
>

Samardzija's ascent continues with win

Jeff Samardzija is off to a 4-1 start in his first season as a starter. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

How does one explain the emergence of Jeff Samardzija as one of the top pitchers in the National League after the new Chicago Cubs starter struggled to hang on for years?

“He has been the most improved pitcher in the game from last June until right now, ” said one of the top scouts in baseball, who works for a National League East team. “It starts with fastball command and a consistent arm slot and ends with four pitches he can throw for a strike.”

Samardzija was slow to develop due to the organization’s need to have him pitch out of the bullpen during Lou Piniella’s years as manager. At this point of his career the sky may be the limit as to how good a pitcher he could be.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum concurs that his ascension began last summer.

“No doubt about it, because I saw it on the other side of the fence (as a Brewers coach ), when we faced the Cubs the later part of the season, I said, ‘Wow, this is a whole different guy,’” Sveum said. “Even our hitters who are quality guys in Milwaukee said this was a whole different animal than before.”

Give the kid from Indiana credit for working through other people’s doubts about his baseball ability and desire. He has shown his dedication to making himself a ballplayer after signing a $10.8 million bonus out of Nortre Dame, where he was more known as an All-American football player than a pitcher.

Samardzjia started his work at winning a rotaton slot in the majors with a vision and a lot of hard work that began last fall in Mesa, Ariz. and is finally paying off.