Jeff Samardzija said he would be surprised if he was traded before Opening Day following his start Thursday in Mesa. Several teams had scouts on hand (Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Nationals, Mariners, Diamondbacks) and many of them were thought to be at Cubs Park to see Samardzija. Bruce Levine reported former Cubs’ GM Ed Lynch, who works for the Blue Jays, was at the park Thursday to watch Samardzija. According to Levine’s sources, “Toronto has been the most aggressive team in the pursuit of Samardzija.”
Samardzija was asked about the scouts in attendance Thursday. Samardzija said, “You’re not really worried about it too much. You’re assuming they’re there every game, regardless of the situation. You want to put on a good show for them. If anything it puts a chip on your shoulder. It makes you want to go out and prove yourself even more and that’s the thing about this game. You’re constantly having to prove yourself. It doesn’t matter what your contract situation is or anything like that. The only thing that matters is proving yourself that day against the team you’re playing.”
Samardzija had a good outing Thursday after the first two batters he faced reached base. Samardzija worked out of a first and third, one out jam by striking out Aaron Hill and Eric Chavez swinging then faced the minimum in his second inning of work.
Jeff Samardzija and Welington Castillo are apparently on the right page. Samardzija told the beat writers he has worked exclusively with Castillo this spring. Samardzija said, “The way he’s (Castillo) improving is unbelievable.”
Rick Renteria quieted the Darwin Barney trade rumors, at least for a couple of days, after Thursday’s spring opener. Renteria said he envisions Barney as his starting second baseman on Opening Day.
Renteria told the beat writers he sees Emilio Bonifacio as a utility man and plans on using him the same way the Angels used Chone Figgins for many years. Renteria has done the research, according to Mark Gonzales, on whether Starlin Castro or Emilio Bonifacio would be better at the top of the Cubs’ lineup. As Gonzales reported, Bonifacio owns a .327 OBP (1,075 PA) as a leadoff hitter in his career while Castro has a .345 OBP (524 PA) hitting at the top of a lineup.
The Yankees have reportedly been interested in Barney for quite some time and the Royals have been connected to Barney as well. The Mets could be checking on Barney due to their need for a middle infielder.
The Cubs know that if the team gets off to another slow start, the front office will unload any trade pieces by July 31. Barney told the Sun-Times, “The reality is if you don’t perform well as a team, things are going to change around the deadline. So we take care of business on the field and when we’re at bat. You stay focused and work and worry about your job today.”
Darwin Barney is in a tough spot. Barney is coming off a horrible year at the plate. The Cubs signed a player before camp that could take his job while Arismendy Alcantara and possibly Javier Baez are coming fast from the minors.
News and Notes
According to a report from Mark Gonzales, the Cubs plan on using Welington Castillo as the team’s DH “more often” this spring. The Cubs are monitoring his workload behind the plate and would like to limit his time behind the dish this spring in order for him to have more endurance for the regular season.
Kyuji Fujikawa threw his second bullpen session Thursday. According to multiple reports, Fujikawa threw 25 pitches off a mound without any discomfort.