Samardzija Focused on the Big Picture

DES MOINES – Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Jeff Samardzija got his third win of the season for Class AAA Iowa against Round Rock on June 9. In the 5-3 win, Samardzija put forth six strong innings as he recorded three strikeouts, giving up one earned run and five hits.

The Cubs' fifth round draft pick from Notre Dame in 2006 knows the meaning of struggle. After impressive outings with Chicago last season, in which he was 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 27.2 innings, Samardzija struggled out of the gate in 2009.

In five appearances with Chicago earlier this season, Samardzija allowed three runs and seven hits in 3.1 innings pitched. Now he's trying to put things together at Iowa after facing some adversity earlier this season.

"It was frustrating," Samardzija said of his slow start. "I was [having low pitch counts] when I was here in Triple-A, and obviously you want to go up there and throw every day, and when that doesn't happen, you just have to be ready to go whenever.

"Obviously you'd like to pitch more and really bounce back from not throwing well the first couple times, but I'm here now and I'm working on some things, and I feel great."

In Spring Training, Samardzija battled it out with left-hander Sean Marshall for the fifth spot in the rotation. But he was plagued with tough outings and poor numbers and was eventually sent to minor league camp.

"I came in trying to be a starter, and it is what it is; it's Spring Training, so virtually it's pretty serious these days," Samardzija said.

As of late, Samardzija has put together some good starts and strong innings. He lowered his ERA to 4.05 ERA in his last start and has 38 strikeouts in 46.2 innings pitched. Two of his last three outings have been quality starts.

The adjustment between roles (as far as being a starter or a reliever) is challenging, but Samardzija is meeting it head-on.

"You just have to be on your toes," he said. "Have to be ready for anything. I don't know what they want from me here as far as the rest of the season, but as long as I'm here I'm going to be starting and working on my pitches. So it's just a job-to-job kind of thing; just change it up wherever you go."

He was happy with Tuesday's win over Round Rock, but he's still focusing on improving in order to get himself another shot to make an impact for the Chicago pitching staff.

"It went well," he said of his start. "I've felt pretty good all year. It's just been a matter of a couple pitches here and there; just keep the pitch count down. I think where I've struggled this year is I haven't made key pitches to get me out of innings."

Things are beginning to look good for Samardzija – and so are his pitches.

"They've all been working," he said. "I throw my curveball a little more and am mixing my changeup in. I've just been throwing everything. I'm trying to work around my strengths and make quick innings to get the offense back in there."

Samardzija said he is looking at the big picture and worrying about one detail at a time to get himself another opportunity in the big leagues. "I'm working on putting together whole starts." Samardzija said. "I think the best thing I can do is just go out and throw complete starts and be better from game to game."

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