OAKLAND — Jeff Samardzija isn’t sure how he’ll be received by A’s fans on Sunday afternoon, but he isn’t too nervous.
The pitcher returns to the O.Co Coliseum on Sunday as the White Sox look to complete a three-game sweep of the Oakland A’s and end an already strong road trip on a high note. Samardzija went 5-6 with a 3.14 ERA in 16 starts last season for Oakland after the Cubs dealt him in a massive July 4 trade. The right-hander has fond memories of his A’s experience even though the Kansas City Royals eliminated them from the postseason in the Wild Card playoff.
“As soon as you walk in you know it’s a different feeling, a different little aura about it,” Samardzija said. “ It’s cool and it’s good to be back here, they’ve got good fans and you always know the A’s are going to play hard.”
Samardzija got exactly the situation he desired when the A’s sent Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily to the Cubs for him and Jason Hammel. Oakland manager Bob Melvin has been highly complimentary of Samardzija and said he easily fit in the clubhouse. Samardzija loved his A’s experience after enduring several seasons of rebuilding with the Cubs.
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“It was cool to come into a situation where you had to hold your own to right the ship and keep it going where you wanted it to go,” Samardzija said. “You always want to pull your own weight, especially when you’re coming in to a situation like that.
“We had a lot of similar personalities on the team, a lot of guys where their No. 1 goal was just playing baseball and having fun and doing it.”
Asked about how the crowd, Samardzija joked he couldn’t remember how he performed for the A’s in Oakland. He went 4-2 with a 3.12 ERA in nine home starts. But he feels like his departure, a six-player trade that brought him to the Sox in December, should offer him even more leeway.
“I’m trying to remember how I performed here and if it was up to their standards,” Samardzija said with a laugh. “We’ll see. They know it wasn’t my call on leaving, so usually they’re a little nicer when you leave and you were traded.”