Samardzija's game continues to mature


Samardzija's game continues to mature

Walking the first three batters is not the way to start a game. Jeff Samardzija knows that. But hes learning that's no time to panic.

Instead Samardzija settled down, pitching his way out of the jam with minimal damage, giving up only one run. That proved pretty important in a 3-2 Cubs victory Saturday.

As a pitcher, Im starting to learn its not over until its over, Samardzija said. You need to claw your way and keep as many runs off the board as you can. You never know whats going to happen on offense.

With the bases loaded, Samardzija got Carlos Beltran out on a grounder to second that scored Skip Schumaker. Lance Berkman then struck out before Yadier Molina grounded out to end the threat.

Im happy I came out of that inning just giving up one, Samardzija said. Theyve got a lot of pop in the middle of that lineup, so you need to get those early outs. It kind of calmed me down, though, to tell you the truth. It gives you a little confidence boost when you get out of that.

Samardzija was coming off his best start of the season when he pitched eight shutout innings allowing only one hit in a 2-0 victory at Pittsburgh on Monday. After a disastrous June in which he was 0-4 with a 10.41 ERA, Samardzija has only one loss in his past five starts (2-1, two no-decisions).

At one point Saturday, Samardzija retired 10 of 11 batters.

The bottom line was he got all the outs when he had to, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. He did a nice job. He kept us right in the game. The first inning and his last inning, he was in a big mess and he got out of both of them with minimal damage.

The Cardinals tied the game in that sixth after Samardzija once again loaded the bases. This time he did it with two walks and a single, but the results were the same. The Cardinals only scored once.

Berkman, who started the rally with a one-out walk, scored on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso. Samardzija struck out Cardinals starter Joe Kelly to end that threat.

That allowed the Cubs to earn the win with a two-out, bunt single by Reed Johnson that scored Tony Campana in the seventh.

Samardzija left after six innings, having allowed two runs on three hits with six walks and seven strikeouts in a 104-pitch performance.

For us to hold them down to two runs, thats saying something about Jeff, first off all, who didnt have his best stuff today, Johnson said.

Its all part of Samardzijas continuing education as a big-league starter.

Back in the day, it probably would have been a different (result) for me, Samardzija said. But Im starting to learn how to pitch in those situations and how to get out of them with minimal damage.

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”