MESA, Arizona -- I have to say, I was impressed today.
Jeff Samardzija threw six shutout innings against the Indians and the Cubs shut the Tribe out for the second time this week, 2-0.
It wasn't just the six shutout innings, it was the way he threw them. He mixed up his pitches. He struck out five and walked only one. He gave up just three hits, and one of them was a double leading off the game -- after which Shark stranded the runner, Jason Kipnis, by retiring the next three hitters in order.
Not only that, he hit a booming triple to left-center field and rounded the bases like... well, like the wide receiver he used to be. About the only thing he did wrong during Wednesday's game was to drop his bat and start trotting to first base... on ball three, in the second inning. He sheepishly walked back to the plate, where he struck out swinging.
So maybe this grand experiment is going to work after all. (As long as his hair doesn't get in his eyes. Seriously, dude, get a haircut. It doesn't look good on you.)
Meanwhile, the Cubs were wasting plenty of chances in the first five innings; they left six runners stranded, including Samardzija, whose triple led off the fifth inning. This would have been a perfect time for Tony Campana to try a suicide, or even safety, squeeze. Instead. Campana's "swinging bunt" went right to third baseman Jack Hannahan, who threw him out, with Samardzija having to hold, and Blake DeWitt and Starlin Castro popped up to end the inning. The Cubs broke through in the sixth against Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin. Alfonso Soriano and Ian Stewart singled, and after Geovany Soto struck out, two more singles, by Bryan LaHair and Joe Mather, scored the two runs.
Carlos Marmol had an uneventful inning; he did issue a walk, but it was wiped out when Soto threw pinch-runner Ryan Spilborghs out as Russ Canzler was striking out. That ended the inning. James Russell and Rafael Dolis (third spring save) also threw scoreless innings.
Also, this happened in the fourth inning:
They need instant replay in spring games. #Indians C Santana fooled ump into thinking he'd caught Mather pop up ...— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 28, 2012
... but the ball actually bounced off seats where #Cubs coaches sit near dugout.— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 28, 2012
So... maybe, just maybe, the Cubs will finally get their money's worth from Jeff Samardzija, nearly five years after he was first signed to that $10 million deal by Jim Hendry. If he makes it in the rotation, I'll be happy to say I was wrong about him. The only thing I worry about is that doing this could weaken the bullpen, unless Randy Wells (who, I presume, will take the bullpen spot that Shark is vacating) steps up.
We should know more by morning, as management is meeting tonight:
"We're just going to make our decisions tonight and see where we go with it," [manager Dale] Sveum said. "We've got to make a decision on the long man as well and that's as much of a priority. We have 22 or 21 guys who are pretty much decided and we'll spend hopefully not more than four hours on the other four guys.
"Some people are attached to somebody and that means a lot, but sometimes you have to put your feelings aside when it comes to these decisions and what's best for the 25 guys in the organization."
Hmm. Sounds ominous. This team has looked pretty good the last few days. I know, I know, spring results don't mean much, etc. Let's hope they at least put a team on the field that will give maximum effort and play good fundamental ball.
Also, nice to meet BCB'er Madison Cub Fan, who sat with us on the left-field lawn this afternoon.
Thursday, the Cubs travel to Peoria to play the Padres. Chris Volstad will start for the Cubs; it will be Clayton Richard for San Diego. We'll also see Kerry Wood throw for the Cubs for the first time since March 18.