It’s looking more and more like Jeff Samardzija is going to do something that almost no one thought he’d be doing prior to spring training.
On Sunday, Dale Sveum came right out and said it: Samardzija is a “near lock” for the rotation.
The Chicago Cubs came into camp with two spots open in the rotation. Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and the newly acquired Paul Maholm made up the first three in the starting five. That left just that pair of spots open for Samardzija, Randy Wells, Chris Volstad, Travis Wood, and Andy Sonnanstine, as well as Rodrigo Lopez.
The real battle was seen as between Shark, Wells, Volstad, and Wood though, and Samardzija has jumped out in front of the other three for one of those final spots.
Considered a better option for the bullpen, where he had so much success last season, Samardzija has been one of the more impressive players overall this spring for the Cubs. He has a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings and hasn’t had any issues with his control, as we’ve seen in the past.
Assuming Samardzija is in the rotation for the Cubs to start the season, that leaves just one spot out for Wells, Volstad, and Wood. Wood has had a very poor spring, though, likely leaving it to Wells and Volstad.
This isn’t going to be a very popular decision by Sveum and his staff, that’s for sure. Even with his success this spring, most have maintained that Shark should remain in his role in the bullpen, where he had so much success last season.
But Samardzija has earned a spot in the rotation with his performance this spring. He made no secret of his desire to be in the starting five and has pitched like it in Arizona. He’s certainly a different pitcher than the last time he was in the rotation, though, as he finally buckled down and emerged as a solid big league pitcher in 2011.
We’ll have to see if this lasts though. The concern will not only surround whether or not Samardzija can go six innings regularly, but who steps up for him in the bullpen. If it’s in long relief, then Wells would be the guy, but there’s also a need for arms at the back end of the bullpen, where Samardzija would have landed. Rafael Dolis appears to be the guy for a setup spot next to Kerry Wood right now.
Overall, I don’t disagree with the decision. Like most, I think Samardzija would have been better served in the bullpen, and could have been a closer candidate if Carlos Marmol faltered. But he’s earned his shot in the rotation, at least to start the year. We’ll see how it works out.