Pitchers and catchers officially took the field for the first time on Tuesday at Fitch Park. The pitchers began their PFP (pitchers fielding practice) drills and reportedly, Matt Garza’s first toss to first base of the season was a successful one.
Jeff Samardzija discussed his reasons for not signing a long term extension with the media and Edwin Jackson talked about where he was during the Cubs-Nationals brawl last September.
Reportedly it was a rather cool first day of practice but the forecast has warmer days ahead for the Cubs as they prepare for the Cactus League opener against the Angels in Tempe … which is just 10 days away.
Jeff Samardzija is a good example of how quickly things can change in professional sports. Samardzija was hanging on to his baseball career by a thread a year ago and now he is in line to take the ball on Opening Day in Pittsburgh. Samardzija is coming off a solid first year as a big league starter … and an even better second half.
Samardzija posted a 6-8 record in his first 17 starts with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP (100 strikeouts, 37 walks and 101 hits allowed in 101 1/3 innings). Samardzija was inconsistent at best but seemed to learn how to pitch as the year wore on. Samardzija has credited the coaching staff with teaching him certain aspects of pitching. Before being shutdown, Samardzija was 3-5 over his last 11 starts with a 2.58 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP (80 strikeouts, 19 walks and 56 hits allowed in 73 1/3 innings). Teams hit just .210 against him compared to .260 in his first 17 outings … and anyone that watched him pitch could see a difference.
Rumors surfaced in early December that the Cubs were working on a long term extension with Samardzija and were very close to extending his contract. The talks cooled and Samardzija decided to take just the one year contract (his first year of arbitration eligibility) for the same amount he made last year ($2.64 million) but with a $125,000 incentives package based on innings pitched.
Samardzija said during the convention that the two sides discussed a long term deal but he decided to wait and pointed out that he and the Cubs’ front office have three years to work something out.
According to multiple reports on Tuesday, the Cubs and Samardzija discussed parameters of a five-year contract extension but Samardzija did not feel like it made much sense to sign an extension without even pitching a full year as a starter. Samardzija acknowledged that he wants to remain a Cub and knows that he and the team are on the same page.
Samardzija did not rule out discussing an extension during the season. He does not feel the negotiations would be a distraction because he can “multi-task” but admitted that those discussions are so far on the backburner that it’s not even an issue.
“We were talking, and we both have the same interest in mind. We both want me to be here and both want me to be part of this team for a long time. When we feel like we’re on the same page with that, we’ll get it done. That was offseason talk. That’s what happened at the end of the year. It’s early right now. I still haven’t proven myself to where I want to be as a player. I was happy last year but I don’t want to stay there. I want to improve and get better. The more I show them that, the more comfortable they’ll be with getting a deal done. It’s not even close to the front burner now. It’s so far on the back (burner) it’s not even an issue. The fact we have a common ground … it makes you feel good. Now it’s just a little bantering back and forth.”
Jeff Samardzija is under team control through the 2015 season and likes what he has seen from the team this winter.
“They very easily could’ve gone in a different direction. They could’ve not spent any money and put us in the same spot. Obviously we’re excited to see what they’re doing and we’re excited to get this thing going and see how all these pieces are going to fit together.”
Kerry Wood reported to Spring Training on Tuesday but not as a pitcher but as an instructor. Less than a year after retiring from baseball, Wood was back in Mesa on Tuesday helping with pitchers fielding practice … Wood caught balls at first base.
According to a report from the Tribune, Dale Sveum is glad that Wood is in camp and said he will bring his “knowledge and experience for the young players to watch.” Wood is expected to be in and out of camp this spring. Wood talked to the players the Cubs brought in for the Rookie Development program last month.
Kerry Wood will likely be “around” the entire season according to the Tribune … and told ESPN Chicago he has no plans at making a comeback.
Spring Training News Bites
The Cubs organizational meetings kicked off on Tuesday in the Phoenix area. The Cubs’ brass is meeting with all of their minor league personnel and scouts to go over ‘The Cubs Way’ to make sure everyone is on the same page with the Cubs’ new manual on how the game will be taught throughout the organization.
According to a report from ESPN Chicago, Dale Sveum said Tuesday that the ball was coming out of Travis Wood’s hand much better than it did last spring. Travis Wood knows he is fighting for a spot in the rotation … and is the only southpaw competing for a spot in the rotation according to the Tribune.
Dale Sveum said that Scott Baker will be “babied” as he recovers from Tommy John surgery last April. Sveum would not put a timetable on when Baker will be ready. Scott Baker was one of the pitchers that threw a bullpen session on Tuesday.
According to ESPN Chicago, Scott Feldman “likely has an inside track for a spot” in the Cubs rotation.
Carlos Villanueva sees himself as a starter but admitted he is a team guy and is willing to do whatever the Cubs need him to do. Villanueva decided to sign with the Cubs because of his relationship with Dale Sveum from their days together in Milwaukee … and said at the end choosing to sign with the Cubs was an easy decision.
Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Samardzija and Carlos Marmol are among the pitchers scheduled to throw on Wednesday.
According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, Edwin Jackson will be in the middle of it all for the Cubs.
Kyuji Fujikawa would like his first name pronounced “Q-Jay” instead of “Q-Gee.”
News and Notes
According to a report from Jonah Keri, the Cubs have two of the worst contracts in baseball on their books … Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs owe Marmol $9.8 million in the third and final year of his contract and Soriano will be paid $18 million per season over the remaining two years of his eight-year contract. It is pretty easy to guess which contract tops Grantland’s list of the worst contract in baseball.
According to Paul Sullivan, Carlos Zambrano may play in Japan or Taiwan if he cannot get a Major League deal.
One more note on the large contract that was handed out to Michael Bourn … according to Jon Heyman, Bourn’s four-year, $48 million deal is the largest guaranteed contract ever handed out to a player that has never hit 10 home runs in a single year or slugged .400 in a single year, and the vesting option is very attainable that would run the deal up to five years and $60 million.
And last, but not least … the field is marked and ready for the 2013 Cubs Bunting Tournament