MESA, Ariz. -- This had to be the strangest of days for Jeff Samardzija, as he made his spring debut. He was pitching in HoHoKam Stadium, the spring training ballpark he’d called home for almost his entire career with the Chicago Cubs organization, before he was traded to the Oakland Athletics this past summer. So how weird was pitching in HoHoKam as a visiting player for the Chicago White Sox and going up against the team he went to the postseason with last year?
“We were talking about this before: Some crazy things line up for me sometimes,” Samardzija said when reflecting on his time at HoHoKam as a Cub. “And when you come to a park you spent six years at and with a team you just got done playing with, it’s fun. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed my last calendar year, with moving around and meeting a lot of different guys, a lot of great guys I got to play with. But when you toe the rubber, it’s all fair game after that.”
“Nothing against anybody else, but he felt like, from the minute that he had walked into our clubhouse, that he had been there for a while,” Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin said of having Samardzija on the A’s for the stretch run the past season. “Just his personality fit in from day one. [It] usually takes a while to fit into a club, feel like you can be yourself, whereas from the first day he was there, it felt like he had been there for a couple years.”
Of course, given the turnover on the A’s roster over the winter, there weren’t a lot of familiar faces in green and gold for Samardzija to catch up with.
“Yeah, all the guys are joking around over there saying they were hoping everyone was going to wear name tags the first week of camp until they get to know everyone’s name,” Samardzija said. “But that’s what Oakland does. It’s their M.O. They have a budget to work with, and they know what pieces they need and don’t need, and they’re very fluid with their roster. And you understand it when you’re over there, and I think when you’re there for a while, you appreciate it for what it is, and they put a lot of hungry guys right in the middle of their career that maybe were disowned by other teams and shoved along, and they get a chance here, and a lot of guys don’t miss that chance when they go to Oakland, and they don’t take it for granted. It’s always a fun team to play on -- a lot of hungry guys that love to play the game.”
Samardzija pitched three innings against the A's as the White Sox won 10-4.
Pomeranz pitches: As the A’s sift through their overlapping pitching options between the rotation and the bullpen, you can count lefty Drew Pomeranz among the few moving parts who will be slotted into one role or the other -- or perhaps both.
“I try not to think about that,” Pomeranz said after making his first start of the spring. “It doesn’t really matter what’s going on or what the situation is. I just try to do my job, try to go out there and get outs. I don’t know [if I have a preference], I just go out there and try to get outs.”
Consider Pomeranz one proof that pronouncements about the death of the swingman are premature. As if Yusmeiro Petit’s performance last October wasn’t a potent enough reminder, the A’s owed much to the adaptability that both Pomeranz and righty Jesse Chavez provide for their staff. Pomeranz opened the year in a middle relief role but was bumped into the rotation in May and threw 15 consecutive scoreless innings in his first three turns and a couple of quality starts in his first seven turns, before putting himself on the DL thanks to punching a chair after a bad outing against the Rangers on June 16. The A’s then restocked their staff with veteran additions such as Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester.
As for the results of his initial action, Pomeranz was pleased with his stuff in his two scoreless innings, which helped him notch four strikeouts, two of them called. Reviewing his stuff, Pomeranz observed, “Curveball was good today, fastball felt pretty good, it was a little up because I felt really good. It’s one of those things where you come into a game situation, a little extra adrenaline was flowing. My pitches felt sharp,” while noting his fastball command and velocity were close to where he wanted them and saying, “I was just a little bit off on some pitches -- small misses.”
Even though Pomeranz promptly pitched into traffic, he quickly demonstrated in live action that he was going to continue skip throwing from the stretch. “Yeah, I’m not changing that,” Pomeranz said. “I had the best year I’ve ever had like that. I see no reason to switch it.”
Game notes: In a game the A’s lost to the White Sox 10-4, Melvin took left fielder Coco Crisp out of the game after just two innings. “He was playing catch in the outfield, and he felt his elbow just a little bit, so I didn’t want to mess around with it. He was only going to get two at-bats today, anyway. Just a little sore. He’s not playing tomorrow anyway, could be a couple days.” ... On Tyler Clippard, who got knocked around for two hits, two walks and four runs allowed, Melvin was sympathetic: “A lot of times, you’ll see guys like that just struggle a little bit with his command. He was using all of his pitches, trying to mix in everything, and was just a lot off with his command and throw more balls than he was used to. He’s just getting his work in; he’s not happy with the result.” ... Switch-pitcher Pat Venditte also contributed to the White Sox’s six-run sixth inning coming in after Clippard and getting tagged for two runs on a pair of hits and a walk.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.