Samardzija Surprises in Spring Debut – Cubs 6, Royals 4

Spring Game Four – Cubs 6, Royals 4
WP – Jeff Samardzija (1-0) LP – Jonathan Sanchez (0-1) Save – None

wflag.jpgJeff Samardzija has been saying for several weeks that he wants to be a big league starting pitcher. Samardzija told everyone that was his goal and he has been working all off-season preparing to win a spot in the Cubs rotation. While it was only one start in the first week of exhibition games, Jeff Samardzija took a step in the right direction Wednesday to reaching his goal.

Samardzija looked like a different pitcher on the mound. He appeared confident and ready to prove he belongs in the Cubs rotation. Samardzija’s typically shaky command was absent Wednesday and he did not walk a single batter in his three innings of work … the longest outing by a Cubs’ pitcher in the first four games.

Samardzija faced the minimum over three shutout innings and allowed only one hit … and he helped erase his only mistake with a well-timed side step that gave Steve Clevenger a chance to throw out Chris Getz. Samardzija struck out three and consistently hit the mid-90s with his fastball (94-96 MPH) and his changeup ranged from the high-80s to low-90s (87-91 MPH)

Jeff Samardzija threw 36 pitches, 28 for strikes, Wednesday afternoon in Surprise.

The Cubs’ offense did just enough against the Royals and scored four of their six runs in the first inning. The Cubs hit the ball where it was pitched against Jonathan Sanchez and were aggressive on the bases but it was three miscues by the Royals that helped the Cubs put a four-spot on the board in the opening frame.

Reed Johnson (2-for-3 with a run scored), Starlin Castro (2-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base), Bryan LaHair (2-for-3 with a RBI, a run scored and a stolen base), Darwin Barney (1-for-3 with a double and a RBI) and Brett Jackson (1-for-1 with a RBI) led a Cubs’ offense that pounded out 15 hits.

After Dave Sappelt flied out to center to start the game, Reed Johnson lined a 2-1 pitch back up the box that almost took Jonathan Sanchez’s head off. Starlin Castro followed with a smash to third that ate up Mike Moustakas. Reed Johnson did not pause around second and ended up at third with one out.

With runners on first and third, Bryan LaHair worked the count to 3-2. Castro broke for second. Sanchez did not pitch to his defense and LaHair reached out and poked an outside fastball toward the vacated spot at short (Escobar went to cover second). Escobar retreated and got a glove on the ball but Johnson scored the game’s first run.

Jae-Hoon Ha stepped in with runners on first and second with one out and quickly fell behind 0-2. Ha then poked an outside pitch to the hole at short, the Royals were playing Ha to pull. Castro scored easily on the play and LaHair tried to advance to third.

Jeff Francoeur’s throw got away from Moustakas then Moustakas’ throw to the plate hit Bryan LaHair. LaHair scored and Ha ended up at third with one out … 3-0 Cubs.

Darwin Barney drove in Ha with a double to right that sailed over Francoeur’s head … 4-0 Cubs. Matt Tolbert advanced Barney to third with a ground out to second but Steve Clevenger struck out swinging to end the inning.

Jonathan Sanchez did not return in the second.

Jeff Samardzija retired Jarrod Dyson (2-2 pitch) on a lineout to Starlin Castro to begin his afternoon. Chris Getz followed with a bloop single to right (2-2 pitch). On a 1-1 pitch to Eric Hosmer, Getz broke from second and was gunned down by Steve Clevenger. The Cubs’ catcher delivered a perfect throw and an excellent side step gave Clevenger the time. Hosmer grounded out to first to end the inning.

Samardzija threw 15 pitches in the first, 11 for strikes.

Everett Teaford took over for Sanchez in the second.

Teaford retired Joe Mather (ground out to third) and Sappelt (liner to first on a 2-2 pitch) to start the inning. Reed Johnson reached on a broken bat single to left (2-1 pitch). Starlin Castro then reached on an infield single. Castro hit the first pitch back up the middle. Escobar tried to barehand the slow chopper but could not get a handle on the ball. Bryan LaHair fouled out to third (3-2 pitch) to end the inning.

Samardzija struck out Billy Butler swinging (1-2 pitch), retired Moustakas on a flyout to center (0-1 pitch) and Jeff Francoeur grounded out to third (0-1 pitch) in the second. Samardzija sat down the Royals in order on just nine pitches, seven for strikes.

The Cubs went down in order in the top of the third.

Samardzija started the third, the first Cubs’ pitcher to throw three innings in the first four games, and finished his day with an exclamation point. Samardzija struck out two of the last three batters he faced (both looking) and threw only 12 pitches, 10 for strikes.

Steve Clevenger singled to center to start the fourth. Joe Mather hit a 0-2 pitch to third. Clevenger was forced at second and hit the bag awkwardly. Clevenger came up limping but stayed in the game. Sappelt and Johnson struck out swinging to end the inning.

Jay Jackson made his first appearance of the spring. Jackson took over for Samardzija in the fourth and retired Dyson on a bunt back to the mound. Jackson threw the ball well Wednesday and should have retired Getz for the second out. Castro fielded the routine grounder but his throw sailed and LaHair could not haul the ball in on the bag. Jackson uncorked a wild pitch with Hosmer at the plate that allowed Getz to advance to second. Hosmer then ripped a 2-2 pitch into left center. Hosmer’s double plated Getz … 4-1 Cubs.

With Billy Butler at the plate, Steve Clevenger’s rough day continued. Clevenger dropped a pitch that allowed Hosmer to advance to third. Jackson struck out Butler swinging and retired Moustakas on a pop out to Barney in shallow right (1-2 pitch) to end the inning.

Starlin Castro led off the fifth with a grounder to the hole at short. Escobar’s throw to first was low, Castro beat it but hit the top of the bag and slipped (the coaching staff must teach him how to run the bases). Castro limped around for a bit but stayed in the game.

Castro stole second with LaHair at the plate. LaHair then hit a 1-1 pitch to the hole. Escobar fielded and threw towards first. Escobar’s throw was off. Hosmer stepped away and threw to third as Castro broke … Castro was out by a mile. LaHair reached first then stole second when Adcock forgot about him. Ha hit a slow grounder to short, LaHair advanced to third and was stranded when Barney hit the first pitch to Moustakas.

Jay Jackson completed his second inning of work without allowing any runs (11 pitches, six for strikes). Jackson was not as sharp and if not for a botched hit and run by Francoeur he would have faced more than the minimum. Jackson hit Francoeur to start the inning (1-2 pitch) but Perez hit a medium depth fly to center (1-2 pitch). Campana caught the ball as Francoeur rounded second. Campana threw to first to complete the double play. Laugh popped out to left center to end the inning.

The Cubs tacked on a run in the sixth after Matt Tolbert singled to center to start the inning. Tolbert stole second but Clevenger struck out. Joe Mather followed with a grounder up the middle. Yuniesky Betancourt (playing second base) got to the ball. Mather beat the throw and the Cubs had runners on first and third with one out.

Tony Campana dropped down a sac bunt toward first. Tolbert scored, 5-1 Cubs. Matt Szczur grounded out to second to end the inning.

Dale Sveum emptied his bench in the bottom of the sixth. Rafael Dolis took over for Jay Jackson and Blake DeWitt (3B), Bobby Scales (2B), Alfredo Amezaga (SS), Brett Jackson (RF), Josh Vitters (1B), Matt Szczur (LF) and Blake Lalli (C) took over for the starters.

Rafael Dolis struggled with his command Wednesday but was still effective and when he missed, he missed down in the zone. Dolis threw 11 pitches in the sixth, four for strikes and induced three groundball outs. Dolis issued a four-pitch walk to Robinson with one out … and that was all.

Josh Vitters walked on four pitches with one out in the seventh. Adrian Cardenas advanced him to second with a ground out to second (hit and run). Vitters then broke for third before the pitcher released the ball … Vitters was thrown out by a mile at third to end the inning.

Rafael Dolis pitched the bottom off the seventh with similar results as the sixth inning. Dolis was effective and did not allow any runs. Dolis broke two bats but hit a batter (Max Ramirez) and gave up a double to Mitch Meier. Dolis threw 20 pitches in the seventh, nine for strikes.

The Cubs tacked on a run in the eighth after a one-out single by Blake DeWitt. Blake Lalli fouled out to third before Brett Jackson stepped in. A balk advanced DeWitt to second and Jackson drove him in with a hard single to center … 6-1 Cubs. Campana struck out swinging to end the inning.

The Royals started chipping away at the Cubs five-run lead in the eighth.

Trey McNutt made his first appearance in the Cactus League and pitched better than his box score. Like Dolis, McNutt broke two bats but fell behind Betancourt and it cost him a run.

McNutt gave up a one-out single to Robinson before Betancourt ripped a 3-1 pitch down the third base line. Robinson scored on the double. McNutt struck out the next batter looking on a very nice curveball and got out of the inning with a flyout to left. McNutt threw 23 pitches in the eighth, 13 for strikes.

The Cubs had a chance to add to their 6-2 lead in the top of the ninth after Szczur reached on an infield single and Amezaga delivered a single to left center on a hit and run. Josh Vitters struck out swinging (3-2 pitch) with runners on first and third and Adrian Cardenas grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

With the Cubs looking to trim their roster down by the weekend, Jeff Beliveau did not help himself out Wednesday. Beliveau labored through a 23-pitch ninth, allowed two runs and forced Dale Sveum to get Marcos Mateo up in the pen. The Cubs comfortable four-run lead quickly evaporated.

Kevin Kouzmanoff (single to right) and Mitch Maier (single to right on 2-2 pitch) hit bullets into the outfield off Beliveau to start the inning. A wild pitch put runners on second and third with no outs. Max Ramirez singled to center. Kouzmanoff and Maier scored, 6-4 Cubs.

After a visit from Chris Bosio, Beliveau focused and retired Golson on a lineout to short. Falu reached on a bunt after Bobby Scales failed to cover first. Will Myers pinch hit and hit a deep fly to center that advanced Ramirez to third. With runners on first and third with one out and the Cubs up by two, Beliveau struck out Yuniesky Betancourt swinging to end the game.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

The Cubs return to Mesa to host the Mariners on Thursday. Chris Volstad will make his Cubs debut against veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood.

Observations from the Park

  • Opposing pitchers paid a lot of attention to Cubs’ baserunners over the first four Cactus League games.
  • Brett Jackson played right field Wednesday … in the first four games, Jackson has played in left, right and center.
  • Rick Sutcliffe stood behind homeplate in the tunnel during Trey McNutt’s entire outing Wednesday.
  • The Cubs have been extremely aggressive on the bases so far this spring. There has seemingly been more runners go from first to third on singles in four games than the entire 2011 season.

Video from Cubs vs. Royals – March 7

Jeff Samardzija

Jay Jackson

Jay Jackson

Brett Jackson

Trey McNutt

Jeff Beliveau

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Quote of the Day

"Failure seldom stops you. What stops you is the fear of failure." – W.J. Slim

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  • cubtex

    Nice to see Shark start to figure it out! I hope he is given a shot to start because other than Garza…..he is the only other guy who can be more than a #4. Maholm, T Wood, Volstad and Wells are all at best 4’s and 5’s.

    • paulcatanese

      Agree, looks like he has been working on his mind-set this last off season. As you, I hope he can continue, they will really need him at least at #3 this year if they are to have any chance at all for a decent season.

  • paulcatanese

    Good re-cap Neil, sounds like it was a zoo out there today. Have to agree, the Cubs are being aggresive on the base’s so far. Good, as it appears they some speed to go with it.

  • jw

    These clip are the best…get to see all of the future hall of famers!

    Brett Jackson just looks like he is going to be good…he’s got a little swagger too…love it.

    The Shark is throwing hard

  • Jim_Tinley_Park

    Great Job Neil !

  • Tony_Hall

    I think yesterday, Cubs hitters hit the ball to the hole in the infield (on purpose) more times than they did all last year.   Good to see (actually hear as I was listening on the radio).

    Samardzija looked good, but he looked good last year facing hitters once.  Hopefully is new command will continue and he will be able to face hitters 3 and 4 times, so that he will be able to start.  

    • cubtex

      All because of Theo,Jed and Sveun :) Watch…Soriano will walk 100 times this year, Stewart will hit .320, DeJesus will lead all of baseball in OBP. Nothing like new management to help players finally realize what they should have done the last 10 years of their career.

      • John_CC

         Someday you will have to give some credit when credit is due…

        • cubtex

          I will be happy to do that when there is merit for it. To say that the Cubs hitters are hitting the ball to the hole on the infield more this spring after 4 spring training games and because we have Theo now is laughable.

          • Tony_Hall

            Did you ever see it happen last year?

            The closest thing was Carlos Pena bunting to third to go against the shift.

          • cubtex

            he did that on his own.

    • Theboardrider

      Was thinking same on both. Especially hitting to spots. Old regime seemed to not preach that.

  • cmschube

    What was the balk for in Bret Jackson’s at bat? Was it because the pitcher didn’t come to a complete stop before stepping off?

    • cmschube

       nvm.. my brother clued me in..

      When you step off the rubber, the motion of your foot stepping off the
      rubber must come first.  The pitcher drops his head, then steps off.

  • Janice

    why the negativity about Jay Jackson.  he pitched a good game just like the rest of them. 

    • Janice

      if not for the error he would have pitched to the minimum also. 

  • John_CC

    I have never been a big fan of Shark…until this spring. I used think his attitude was off-putting.  But when I watched him in Mesa I did a 180.  His attitude is great. He is clearly a superior athlete, out in front of all the running drill, never dogging it and never hunched over hands on knees gasping for air like the rest of the pitchers were after the long runs across the outfield.  Then my dad told that he also boxed in the ND Bengal Bouts. No doubt the kid’s a competitor.  I really hope he can put it all together. 

    • cubtex

      I think a former GM with the initials JH signed that pitcher you are talking about :)

      • John_CC

        …back to ignoring you…

        • cubtex


      • cc002600

         yea, that same GM paid him 10 MILDO to play AA ball and be a forgotten setup man for 4 years.  How’d that work out ?

        are you Hendry’s mascot ?

        • cubtex

          He had leverage and that is what was needed to pursuade him to play baseball over football. Not Hendry’s mascot…just someone who knows there are a lot of qualified gm’s out there who can make good decisions. Theo has made some good ones and some terrrible ones just like every gm. Try to be objective.

      • Tony_Hall

        Yes he did and overpaid him with a no-trade clause :)

        Of which I was all for, to get him to play baseball over football.

  • cubtex

    I think it will be interesting to see which lefties will stick with the big club after camp. I think James Russell is a lock(but he is no more than a lefty specialist imo) Beliveau,Gaub and Maine will be battling it out. With Marshall gone(he was able to get both lefties and righties out) they need to keep one more lefty than they did last year since they will have to switch more often.