MESA, Ariz. This had to be the impression Jeff Samardzija wanted to leave in the minds of Cubs coaches and executives before they gathered in the room.
Its unclear if Samardzijas spot in the rotation was ever really in doubt. But he responded by shutting down the Cleveland Indians for six innings in a 2-0 victory at HoHoKam Stadium that became the run-up to Wednesday nights meeting to finalize the roster.
Well see what happens, Samardzija said, but Im really not too worried about it.
The Cubs took the long view and recognized Samardzijas potential, ignoring their glaring need for a power arm in the bullpen to get the ball to closer Carlos Marmol. They saw a 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound freakish athlete. They had to find out if he could give them 200 innings instead of 70.
This could be an insight into their thinking: Randy Wells, who was supposed to pitch in relief on Wednesday, didnt get the chance to make a final impression. He was pushed back to start on Sunday and seems to profile well as the long man.
The answers will be revealed on Thursday, after manager Dale Sveum sits down with team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and other club officials.
Well all be in the meeting and give our two cents, Sveum said. We got 22 or 21 guys that are pretty much decided and well spend more than four hours on the other four guys.
You go back and forth in all kinds of scenarios and sometimes a guy brings (one up) and youre like, Oh, I didnt think of that one and you got to cover your butt (and) you might spend 45 minutes on (that).
Will they spend much time on Samardzija? He showed that he learned something from his last outing seven runs on 10 hits in four innings against the Colorado Rockies and kept a left-handed Indians lineup off-balance.
Samardzija struck out five, walked one and allowed only three hits. He even tripled and showed off the speed (its still there) that made him a football star at Notre Dame.
Thats what Ive been preaching for years now, Samardzija said. I want to be an athlete. I want to hit. I want to run the bases. I want to field my position (and) show I can do it.
Instead of relaxing after a breakthrough season (8-4, 2.75 ERA), Samardzija purposely moved to his place in Arizona and trained at the Cubs complex. He worked out alongside Ryan Dempster, the leader of the pitching staff.
He really wants it bad, Dempster said. Hes come a long way as a pitcher. Hes 27, but hes got like a 24-year-old arm, because he didnt pitch all those years when he was too busy scoring touchdown passes.
Youve seen huge improvements. Hes got tremendous stuff, great makeup and a lot of confidence. He can do some special things.
From the moment you walked into Fitch Park six weeks ago, you noticed Samardzijas sense of urgency. It almost became a running joke: Looks like Samardzijas headed to the rotation just ask him.
I really learned a lot over these past five spring trainings, he said. Being a young guy, you got to come into camp like spring is the season. Unless youve got a six-year deal and eight years in the big leagues, nothings for sure in camp.
I didnt take anything for granted this year. I just wanted to be ready to go, (so) I knew that whatever happened, I left it all out there.
The new decision-makers are intrigued by how much is still left. The ironic part is that Samardzija was aligned closely with former general manager Jim Hendry, who structured a five-year, 10 million contract that convinced him to not pursue the NFL.
In 13 months, the conversation has gone from the Cubs having to carry Samardzija on the roster, to the team thinking he could lift the rotation.
Ive been in meetings where they can get really heated, because some people are attached to somebody and that means a lot, Sveum said. But sometimes you have to put your feelings aside when it comes to these decisions and (remember) whats best for the 25 guys and the organization.
That likely means Samardzija will get what he wants.