Jeff Samardzija was on the wrong end of another low scoring game on Saturday and he is off to a good start to his season. Samardzija has allowed two runs on 11 hits with five walks and 11 strikeouts in his first two starts (14 innings). Samardzija threw seven innings of shutout ball on Opening Day and made only two mistakes against the Phillies in his second outing of the year. Samardzija is throwing strikes (202 pitches, 129 strikes) and owns a 1.29 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.
According to Bruce Levine, Samardzija’s days in Chicago are growing short. The two sides have said publicly they will not negotiate a contract extension for Samardzija during the season. The last time the front office discussed a contract with Samardzija’s agent, Mark Rogers, was at the Winter Meetings in December. Samardzija and the Cubs remain $25-30 million apart on an extension, plus no-trade protection for him. The Cubs view Samardzija as a $14 million a year pitcher for the next six years while Samardzija could be looking for a contract worth ten times more than the first one he signed with the Cubs ($10.6 million) according to Levine.
Levine reiterated Saturday that the Blue Jays have shown the most interest in Samardzija and the Cubs know Toronto’s system after scouting it extensively over the last three years. Reports during the off-season indicated Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer asked Alex Anthropolous for a package of players that included RHP Aaron Sanchez and RHP Marcus Stroman, the top two pitchers in the Jays’ system, for Samardzija.
The Cubs are believed to be asking for two top-pitching prospects, plus in any deal for Jeff Samardzija.
Jake Arrieta completed his first rehab start on Saturday night. Arrieta suited up for the Smokies and completed three innings. Arrieta was scheduled to throw three innings or 55 pitches.
Arrieta completed three innings and threw 40 pitches, 27 for strikes. Arrieta walked a batter and struck out three while allowing one unearned run on no hits. Arrieta threw 24 pitches, 14 for strikes, in the first inning, 11 to the first batter that led to the walk. Arrieta committed a throwing error in the third inning (wild pickoff throw to first base) that led to the unearned run.
Jake Arrieta hit his spots and appeared to shake off the rust as his short outing progressed.
The Cubs have not said when Arrieta will pitch again, but it should be in five days for one of the Cubs’ affiliates.
Carlos Villanueva and the Bullpen
The Cubs’ bullpen has seen its fair share of work over the first five games of the season, in large part due to the two extra innings games at the beginning of the year. According to Bruce Levine, Carlos Villanueva could permanently move into the pen following Sunday’s start against the Phillies. And once the Cubs need a fifth starter again, a call could be made to Triple-A Iowa for Chris Rusin.
The Cubs have three scheduled days off between April 7 and April 17, but would need a fifth starter on April 12. At that point, the Cubs could recall Chris Rusin from Triple-A Iowa to make the start. Rusin was optioned to Iowa on March 30 and has to remain in the minors for 10 days, unless he is replacing an injured player.
The Cubs appear to be okay, at this point, with using Wesley Wright, Justin Grimm, Hector Rondon and Brian Schlitter for multiple innings but if the coaching staff is not careful they will burn out the relievers before the All-Star break.
If Villanueva is moved back to the pen, the Cubs must do everything possible to keep him stretched out so he will be more attractive to contending teams looking to add a valuable swingman to their pitching staff.
News and Notes
With Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Phillies, the Cubs have been shut out twice in their first five games for the first time since 1981 and the 11th time in the last 100 years.
Jason Hammel is not thinking about the possibility of being traded this summer. Hammel is focused on staying healthy and pitching well according to a report from ESPN Chicago.
Rick Renteria likes the way Welington Castillo has been working with the pitching staff, especially the starters, in the first five games according to a report from Tony Andracki.
Ryan Kalish was one of nine Opening Day roster surprises according to Baseball America.