Editor's Note: The above video is from an episode of Sports Talk Live on Feb. 17, 2016.
SCOTTSDALE — It’s a good thing Jeff Samardzija had to warm up behind the right field wall before Sunday’s game. Had he been in the dugout, he would have gotten an odd first taste of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry.
New Dodgers manager Dave Roberts — a former Giant — spent about 10 minutes giving out one handshake and hug after another. Roberts was greeted by Bruce Bochy and coaches Ron Wotus, Hensley Meulens and Jose Alguacil. Former Padres teammates George Kottaras and Kyle Blanks ran out for hugs and friend Rich Aurilia, in camp for a weeklong stint, greeted Roberts as well.
Once Samardzija took the field, the fans ramped things up a bit. Chants of “Beat L.A.” started with the first pitch and Yasiel Puig got his usual chorus of boos. Samardzija has been part of his share of rivalries, and he’s looking forward to this one.
“I understand what it’s all about. I love it,” he said. “That’s what sports are all about, man. When you get two passionate fan bases and they’re probably yelling at each other more than the players are, that’s a good time. That’s why we play these games and that’s why we do what we do. If you don’t enjoy those games, you probably need to get your pulse checked.”
The Dodgers probably wish Samardzija hadn’t been thrown into this mix. He was electric while striking out the side in the first, getting Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson and Puig. Samardzija threw a particularly filthy pitch to Puig, a two-strike slider that had the slugger spinning in the box. A scout behind the plate had Samardzija touching 97 mph with a fastball that helped him pile up five strikeouts in three innings.
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“It was an impressive (first) inning there,” Bochy said. “It was a good three innings of work. He did a nice job, he was crisp with all his pitches and had good stuff.”
The Giants hope Samardzija can help them end the Dodgers’ three-season run atop the National League West, and he’ll get an early look at them. If Samardzija is the No. 2 starter he’ll face the Dodgers at AT&T Park on April 10. If he’s the No. 3 starter he’ll pitch on Sunday Night Baseball on April 17 at Dodger Stadium.
Samardzija came up with a Cubs team that has a long-running rivalry with the Cardinals. “When we were good enough to make it a rivalry, it was fun,” he said, smiling. As a star wide receiver at Notre Dame he looked forward to games against USC and Michigan.
A Sunday game on an overcast day in March is quite the step down from big-time college football, but Samardzija still felt some of the desire pulsing from the stands. He got to soak it up for three innings, giving up one run on five hits (all singles).
“For a player, you’re here to work on some things, so you’ve got to balance the things you need to work on with it being an exhibition game,” he said. “You want to work on some things but you also understand that (fans) do take it seriously, so you don’t want to go out there and be too aloof.”