Bears

So far, Samardzija is living up to the hype

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So far, Samardzija is living up to the hype

CINCINNATI Jeff Samardzija lobbied hard to get this, and so far hes backed up all the talk about wanting to be in the rotation.

Theres probably too much instant analysis, too much fun with small sample sizes, but this is an everyday business. If Samardzija had gotten off to a slow start, the Cubs would have to spin how he has the right stuff, but is still learning on the job.

Theres no need when Samardzija is dealing like this, getting strike one with his fastball, mixing in his slider, finishing off hitters with his splitter and getting it up around 94 to 98 mph the entire game.

The education of Samardzija continued with Wednesdays 3-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. He didnt give up a hit until the fourth inning, and left with two outs in the eighth. He allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven.

It seems like things just keep getting more and more important, Samardzija said. It was important to have a big spring. It was important to have a good start and then as the season goes on, its going to be important to finish strong.

Its a game where you got to keep proving yourself. (You) cant get complacent and think your spots safe. Someones always nipping at your toes and you just got to keep pushing.

Through five starts, Samardzija is 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA and 32 strikeouts against 10 walks in 31.2 innings. He was pushed back a day and got another one because of Tuesdays rainout. The Cubs already have a plan in place thats going to monitor his workload as he transitions out of the bullpen.

There are going to be nights where its 87 degrees at first pitch and it all comes together. Ian Stewart whos hitting .173 and hadnt homered in almost three weeks drilled one 363 feet into the right-field seats.

Geovany Soto (.155) picked up his second RBI of the season with a single to left that gave the Cubs an insurance run in the sixth inning. Enigmatic closer Carlos Marmol worked a one-two-three ninth to earn his second save and finish off the Reds (11-12).

The Cubs (9-15) are only 24 games into the season, with 85 percent of the schedule still remaining.

Stewart had a tough year last year, Sveum said. But we didnt pick him up to give him 25 days (as) a chance, especially when (he) can be a two-way player. Its way too early, the weathers just starting to warm up (and) theres plenty of guys struggling.

(Albert) Pujols doesnt even have a home run yet. Prince Fielders hit one since the second day of the season. So its way too early to even think about any change or anything like that.

Sveum never got the job offer he sensed was coming from the Boston Red Sox last November. He took this one knowing it would come with a long runway. This is not the win-now team, and hes wired to be patient.

Ive been around too long to see the panic, Sveum said. These guys do have somewhat of a track record. Its not the elite track records, but they have put up good numbers and had good years in the big leagues.

I dont care what month it is, but everybody in this league is pretty much going to struggle for one month, if not two, out of the six months with their everyday players.

Realistically, the Cubs are looking at a rebuilding process that will take years. But having a one-two punch of Matt Garza and Samardzija at the top of the rotation could accelerate everything.

We didnt have the team meeting that said this is a rebuilding year, Samardzija said. We just kind of skipped that altogether. We want to win games. Every day you get a new chance to win a game.

We might have to do it a different way than, say, the Yankees or somebody (else). But pitching and defense goes a long way.

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

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USA Today Sports

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

Laurence Holmes is joined by Olin Kreutz, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, and Alex Brown to break down the Bears' highly dispiriting 36-25 loss to the Saints at Soldier Field. The guys discuss why the loss was so disappointing and frustrating (2:00), the lack of progress for many players since last year (5:00), the possibility of somebody other than Nagy calling plays (10:00), whether the Bears can save their season and still make the playoffs (14:00), and the massive problems in the run game this season (22:00).

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Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Given Sunday’s parallels to the Bears’ 2018 clunker against the Rams, the spotlight on QB Mitch Trubisky may have been even brighter against the Saints than it usually is – which is saying something. 

Four quarters, 250 yards and one blowout loss later, the only thing that’s changed is that the Bears no longer have the luxury of hiding another subpar performance from their franchise quarterback behind a monstrous, game-changing defense. Trubisky’s numbers against New Orleans look better on paper, but the eye test told a much different – or similar, technically – story. 

“It's hard to pinpoint it,” he said after the 36-25 loss. “Just frustrating, ugly. Couldn't swing momentum in our way – couldn't really get going. Just sputtered out. We've just got to find ways to stay on the field, especially after 3rd down and move the chains and get going."

“I want to go back, watch and see like progression-wise [how he did],” Matt Nagy added. “I know there's one there early in the game where we missed a corner route on 3rd down, and Mitch knows -- he knows that he can connect on that. We've connected on it a lot in practice.” 

That specific miss sums up much of what’s plagued Trubisky through his time in Chicago. On 3rd-and-6, with Taylor Gabriel finding separation on a 20-yard corner route, the QB rushes through his throwing motion and misses an easy first down. 

“I'm going to go back and watch it because that's one of my favorite throws,” Trubisky said. “And I hit that every single time this week in practice, so why it didn't translate to the game is really frustrating for me. I felt like that's an easy throw that I make easily, and I just wasn't on the same page and didn't put it in the spot to give my guy a chance.” 

Another miss – this time overthrowing Anthony Miller on a seam route – provided a great example of the communication issues that have plagued the passing game. Miller had a step on two defenders, but according to Nagy and Trubisky, cut in on the route when the play directed that he cut out. 

“That's one of Anthony's really good routes that he runs,” Trubisky said. “And he separates and gets open, and I just felt like I had to get the ball out within that time because they created pressure up front. Someone slipped through, and from what I can remember, he just went inside, so I tried to throw a tight seam and give him a chance. But I was on the ground after that, so I'm going to have to go back on the film and watch it and correct it.” 

“Those are plays that you look at and you just -- you'd like to convert on those and connect.,” added Nagy.

The coach also conceded that Trubisky looked rusty on some throws, but was quick to credit the quarterback for making others (he didn’t specify which). Still, silver linings were little consolation to the Bears on Sunday night, and will continue to mean less and less as the season goes on. For being a team that supposedly has great weeks of practice, plenty of questions remain about where all that goes on Sundays. 

“Why it's not translating, I don't have a theory,” Trubisky added. “All I know is, go back to work and make sure that you put in all that work during the week to make sure it translates.”

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