NEW YORK Jeff Samardzija wasnt shy in telling his bosses and the media that he belongs in the Cubs rotation.
Samardzija is physically gifted did you know he played football at Notre Dame? but as much as anything he has confidence and a competitive streak going for him.
At times, Samardzija has backed up his words and looked like someone youd want to take the ball in October. Youve also watched the ups and downs as he transitions out of the bullpen.
There are times where it all seems to happen in the same game. Samardzija wrapped up the first half of this experiment with Saturdays 3-1 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field.
Samardzija (6-8, 4.71) and the Cubs (32-52) will need to find another gear. The offense looks like it could use the All-Star break, particularly Alfonso Soriano, who hasnt homered in more than a week and is 3-for-19 on this road trip. By throwing seven more innings, Samardzija is at 101.1 for the season, after accounting for 88 last year. He insists that he feels great.
Im just starting to hit my stride, Samardzija said. I really look forward to hitting the second half strong. Its going to a big thing for me, proving to these guys (that) as the season goes along, I stay strong.
I put in all the hard work in the offseason for this exact reason. Those innings get up and your body (and) your arms got to be strong to carry you through the season.
Coming out of the break, the Cubs have arranged their rotation Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Matt Garza, Travis Wood so that Samardzija wont start again until July 18 at Wrigley Field against the Miami Marlins.
With the heat rising to 94 degrees, Samardzija watched Jordany Valdespin hammer a 95 mph fastball over the right-center field fence. Ike Davis later reached down and drove an 0-2 splitter that slammed off the Pepsi Max sign on the second deck in right field for a two-run homer.
Ten days earlier, the Mets (46-39) had rocked Samardzija at Wrigley Field, jumping him for nine runs in a 17-1 blowout. This time, they got nothing after the third inning.
Hes handled himself pretty good, catcher Steve Clevenger said. Hes got great stuff. I think he can definitely be a frontrunner in a rotation. Its just about getting innings (and) getting used to it.
The Cubs had nothing to lose in stretching out Samardzija, who dominated in May (2.48 ERA) and seemed out of it in June (10.41 ERA). This quality start followed seven innings of one-run ball against the Atlanta Braves.
We knew there was going to be some growing pains, manager Dale Sveum said. He went through them and keeps understanding how to do it three times through the lineup (and) settle back down after something bad happens and regroup.
This one ended with Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4) stranded on second base after a leadoff double, once Clevenger was called out on a questionable check swing at Bobby Parnells 101 mph fastball.
As the Cubs try to envision their rotation of the future, and the media searches for ways to measure the Rizzo bounce, its become clear this lineup needs more juice. Sveum indicated that interim hitting coach James Rowson, who replaced Rudy Jaramillo last month, will be in the mix to return in 2013.
No question about it, Sveum said. With anything like that, its labeled interim, but hes definitely going to be highly considered.
Theres no doubt that Samardzija is a big part of the plans for next season and beyond. Stay tuned to see if he can handle it.
To bounce back (is) really key for me, Samardzija said. The first season starting, youre going to go through those ups and downs, and its all about how you respond.