Capitals

Samardzija says Cubs management on right path

Samardzija says Cubs management on right path

CHICAGO (AP) Jeff Samardzija can see the big picture coming into focus for the Chicago Cubs.

They're about to begin their second season with Theo Epstein leading the front office, and the right-hander believes the pieces are starting to fall into place.

Samardzija said he ``absolutely'' likes what he's seeing from management, and he wasn't referring to the one-year contract he agreed to on Friday. He sees a team coming off a 101-loss season that just might surprise a few people.

``You understand that they care and that they're making their decisions,'' he said Friday at the Cubs' annual fan convention. ``Obviously, some of those decisions are hard decisions. That's why there are only certain people making them. Yeah, I like what they're doing. They're winners.''

A year ago, optimism on the north side was as heavy as a slice of deep dish pizza.

Epstein, the man who built two championship winners in Boston, had just taken over as president of baseball operations and was leading a front office that included new general manager Jed Hoyer.

Hope that the Cubs were on the path to their first title since 1908 was soaring.

But even Epstein and Hoyer didn't realize just how big a task they were facing as they began to overhaul the roster and the farm system.

A year in, well, the Cubs believe the results are coming. Never mind the record last season.

``We are building something long-term,'' Hoyer said. ``Our goal ultimately is to get to the point where we're a team with great young players and we're going to make the playoffs every single year or eight out of 10 years.''

Players believe the right steps are being taken.

``I think we have a better chance this year because of what I see so far,'' Alfonso Soriano said.

They believe they have enough arms after bringing in Edwin Jackson to lead a rotation that includes Matt Garza and Samardzija. Throw in Travis Wood and newcomers Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, and the Cubs have six potential starters.

They also can boast a young All-Star in shortstop Starlin Castro and a Gold Glove second baseman in Darwin Barney.

The four-year, $52 million deal the Cubs gave Jackson after they tried to sign Anibal Sanchez was a break from the pattern of acquiring low-priced players, hoping they can contribute. It was a signal that management was looking for improvement now while eyeing the future.

Who exactly will be a part of that future remains to be seen.

Soriano said Friday that he would like to stick around. He has two seasons left on his eight-year, $136 million deal, and while he's been slowed by injuries, he showed that he can still be productive when healthy.

There were rumors last season that he might be traded to San Francisco, but Soriano nixed them when he said he didn't want to go there. He wound up finishing with 32 homers and 108 RBIs.

Soriano said he hasn't talked with management about his future since the end of the season but would like to do so soon.

``Like I said, I'm ready to play hard here or for another team because this is my job,'' Soriano said. ``This is what I like to do.''

Garza, meanwhile, said he's ``champing at the bit'' to get back on the mound after having his season cut short by an injury to his pitching elbow. The right-hander expects to have no restrictions when camp starts.

He likes the additions made to the Cubs and sees no reason why they can't make the playoffs.

``There's no reason to suit up every year if that's not what you're trying to do,'' he said.

Garza's name frequently comes up in trade talks. He agreed to a one-year, $10.25 million deal that avoided salary arbitration and wouldn't mind discussing a multiyear contract.

He's said he's not focused on that at the moment, though, and management isn't ready to offer one, anyway.

``It's not the right time right now,'' Hoyer said. ``He hasn't pitched since (July 21). He feels great, he feels healthy. I think if there's a time in the future where he feels really good, that's a more rational time to have that discussion.''

A long-term contract is also something Samardzija would like to continue to discuss. He said the sides talked about a multiyear deal before agreeing to a one-year contract that includes a $2.64 million salary and an additional $125,000 in available performance bonuses.

``There's definitely common ground between both of us that we both want to be here in Chicago,'' he said. ``That's really all that needs to be said. We will continue to talk.''

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3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

The Capitals play their last home game of October on Friday as they host the Florida Panthers (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Here’s what you need to watch.

Dmitrij Jaskin is back in

Todd Reirden has made one adjustment to the lineup for Friday’s game, putting Dmitrij Jaskin back in on the fourth line in place of Nathan Walker. Jaskin has yet to record a point since joining the Capitals, but that has a lot to do with where he was coming from.

“This team is based on being creative and it's probably something that I missed in the last few years,” Jaskin said following Friday’s morning skate.

In St. Louis, Jaskin was coached by Mike Yeo and, before him, Ken Hitchcock. Both coaches preach a hard-nosed offensive style based more on effort and being defensively responsible than skill. Coming to a team like Washington then, a team that encourages skill and creativity on offense, is a pretty dramatic change.

Jaskin has played a very safe style since coming into the lineup. It’s good to be defensively responsible, but not if it completely chokes the life out of the offense. Jaskin is hardly generating any offense at all thus far since coming to Washington.

After a few more practices, can it finally spark some skill and creativity from Jaskin?

Can the Caps get the bottom six back on track?

The Caps have gotten only two goals in six games from their bottom six and both came in the team’s blowout opening win against Boston. The third and fourth lines generated some chances on Wednesday, but afterward, Reirden stressed that the team needed to see more production from its depth forwards.

“We've got to continue to get scoring depth wise if we want to have success in this league,” he said. “That's where everything's headed is you can't rely on your top guys to come through for you every night and we'll continue to focus on finding the right chemistry with that third and fourth line to be able to give us some added offense there as well.”

Florida could provide a good opportunity for those players to get some points on the board.

Starting goalie Roberto Luongo is out with an injury and James Reimer will get the start on Friday. In three games, Reimer has a GAA of 3.62 and save percentage of .885.

As a team, the Panthers currently rank 24th in goals against per game with 3.50.

Two teams in need of a win

Florida is still searching for its first win of the season with a 0-2-2 record. It is still early, but this is a Panthers team with playoff aspirations and you don’t want to dig yourself in too deep a hole to start or it becomes very difficult to dig out.

The Caps, meanwhile, will be playing in their final home game of October. They leave Saturday for Vancouver to kick-off a three-game Western Canada trip. They then will face the Canadiens in Montreal on Nov. 1 before finally returning home.

Washington’s next home game will not come until Nov. 3. That makes Friday’s game a big one for the Caps as they try to secure two points before hitting the road.

“It's definitely a big game,” Reirden said. “We want to build on some of the things we were able to accomplish last game. It's difficult anytime you go out west with time changes and different stuff. We know that [Florida is] going to be a desperate team that hasn't had the start that they want and they're talented so it's an important game for us to go on the road on a winning note.”

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Redskins need to stop Cowboys' Cole Beasley to win in Week 7

Redskins need to stop Cowboys' Cole Beasley to win in Week 7

When the Redskins take on the Cowboys on Sunday in Week 7, there's one player NBC Sports Washington's resident GM Charley Casserly says they need to contain in this week's "Matchup to Watch."

The player: Wide receiver Cole Beasley

The comparison: Randall Cobb (Packers), Jamison Crowder (Redskins)

Who will cover him: Casserly's guess? Fabian Moreau

The key for the Redskins: Get physical with him. "Jam Beasley off the line of scrimmage," Casserly says, "reroute him and be physical with him."

Click "Play' in the video box above to watch Charley Casserly's full Redskins vs. Cowboys Matchup of the Week.

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