Samardzija's start today could determine his role as Cubs move to finalize roster

Samardzija's start today could determine his role as Cubs move to finalize roster

We're all assuming Jeff Samardzija has a spot in the rotation all but wrapped but that may not be the case. According to Dale Sveum,

“Performance is everything. We have decisions to make tonight and part of his performance today will have something to do with those decisions.”

It's no coincidence that the Cubs have waited until Samardzija makes one more start before making their final decision. It's also no coincidence that Randy Wells is scheduled to start this weekend in an effort to get his pitch count up. If Samardzija has another bad outing, Wells is the guy who's likely to step in and fill that role.

It's worth noting that the Cubs are a bit worried about their bullpen, enough to bring in Shawn Camp and make some minor inquiries around the league. Tom mentioned the other day that they may have interest in Texas RH reliever Koji Uehara. While the Cubs may have been hoping they could find a solid starter in Jeff Samardzija, there must be a part of them that would be relieved to have him back in their bullpen.

Sveum hopes to have 21-22 of the spots decided on today with the other 3 or 4 being decided shortly afterward.  It's likely that two of the decisions that will go down to the wire are backup catcher and the final bullpen spot or two.

The catcher's spot will be between Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger.  Both have made strong cases and both appear to be major league ready, so both of these guys may be with the Cubs until the final day before one of them gets sent to Iowa.

The bullpen situation is a bit more complex than a two man race with one spot open.  As many as 6 pitchers are already in: Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, James Russell, Rafael Dolis, Casey Coleman, and the loser of the Smardzija/Wells derby.

Marcos Mateo's injury takes him out of the equation but there is another RP who is out of options in Frankie De La Cruz.  The Cubs have said they like his changeup and I was told that his fastball was clocked at 95 mph in his last outing.  That kind of stuff would make it hard to waive him because there's a good chance he won't clear, especially because teams always look to be filling in the back of their bullpen this time of year.

The other big decision is with Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo.  The Cubs cannot send him back down to the minors without offering him back to the Phillies.  It's unlikely the Phillies would refuse to pay the $25K required to take him back and allow them to send him back down to the minors.  The Cubs have been impressed with Castillo's fastball and his poise, but he could probably use a little time in the minors to refine his command and breaking pitch.  It's a tough call but if the Cubs are looking beyond 2012, then it's hard to see them giving up a good 22 year bullpen arm.

Also factoring in is recent veteran acquisition Shawn Camp.  Camp is low on upside but pretty high on reliability.  He'll throw strikes and he'll keep the ball down, two things the organization is looking for.  In the end we'll probably see a guy with an ERA in the mid to high 3s at best.  Camp isn't on the 40 man roster, however, so it's questionable that the Cubs would want to add him at the risk of losing a younger arm they can use long term.

It could well be those 3 guys left for one spot, but as Dale Sveum said, nothing is etched in stone.  The Cubs manager loves what Casey Coleman and Rafael Dolis have done this spring but admitted that you can't always get what you want,

“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.”

Dolis and Coleman have options and if the Cubs like De La Cruz and Castillo enough to keep them,  then despite their great springs, Dolis and Coleman may find themselves in AAA to start the season so that the Cubs don't risk losing two younger power arms for nothing.

Wouldn't it be nice to be a fly on the wall tonight as the Cubs talk through those decisions.



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  • John, while I agree that this start is important for today, I still have trouble seeing this guys l/t value to the organization. In my mind, he still carreis the tag of another Hendry "rah rah" signing that has yet to bear any real value. If he can have another solid season in 2012, then we can build for the future with him on the roster or try to extract value in a trade, but, to me, he will never be anything more than a mid level roster spot. He is not a star, nor does he project to be an anchor...just a small cog in the machime.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    You're not the only guy who feels that way. There's quite a few people around baseball who don't think Samardzija has what it takes at the MLB level. There are also some that think he has a lot to offer.

    I think this is his make or break year with the Cubs organization. He makes a lot of money and if he doesn't cut it as a starter or at least a top notch set up man, the Cubs may move on to cheaper arms like Dolis, Castillo, Cabrera, Zych, etc.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I personally think he's got enough to be a pretty darned good setup man. I like the fact that he WANTS to be a starter. I just hope his ego can take the fact that he may be better suited to a setup role.

  • In reply to stork:

    I'm willing to try him as a starter while learning toward think he probably belongs in the bullpen.

    And you make a good point. How does Shark handle it if he doesn't make it? I think if he has another bad outing, he's more likely to accept that he didn't earn the job when all was said and done. If he has a great outing, I think he wins the job.

    What will be interesting is what if he has a so-so outing or struggles similar to how Garza did yesterday.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John..,betting UR havin fun trying to figure all this out. Heres a couple of my thoughts..,please comment.
    1. Samardzja starts all the decisions for the bullpen. Theo better get this one done first.., and RIGHT.
    2. Gotta keep Cleavenger up to compliment Sota..,the LH RH thing.
    3. Make a little trade and keep the Rule 5 guy, THEN send him to the minors for a few months OF SEASONING.
    4.Camp will STAY and open the season with the team.. Cubs scouts have seen him in ST, obviously like him over some of the others.
    5. Theo and Co. need to do this right..,make a few trades..,keep the right guys and let the never-to-bees go.


  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    It is fun!

    Completely agree with the first point and I would also go with Clevenger as the backup, though it's very close.

    If the Cubs can make a trade to keep Lendy Castillo, then they will. To me that would be the best case scenario.

    I like Camp's chances. If he was on the 40 man, I think he'd be in for certain.

  • Scott Maine, anybody? While I don't want him in the majors to start the season, I'm not sure I trust Russell to be the only lefty in the pen just yet.

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    While I love his arm and stuff, I have Scott Maine ruled out in my mind. He just walks too many people. He has good enough stuff to work his way out of jams, but it'd be nice if he didn't put himself there to begin with.

  • I forgot to mention that plush moustache he is rocking would be great to laugh at for 5 or 6 innings.

  • In reply to Bilbo Baggins:

    Always have to take intangibles into account!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Have to say that picture with his hair blowing in the wind is great. It's Fabio-esque.

  • I see absolutely no harm in letting the Shark start the season in the rotation. You might strike gold if not move him back to the pen. They guy has top notch athleticism (would have been the Bears best receiver in 2011) and he's a power pitcher. With the general consensus being that 2012 is a rebuilding year why not determine if he is rotation material. He's had one bad outing this spring and clearly the desire is there. Give the kid a shot!!!!!

  • In reply to Bilbo Baggins:

    I'm okay with trying him there. My feeling is he's best off in the pen, but without actually seeing how his improved command, stuff translates in a real setting, we'll never know for sure. Why not, Cubs don't have a lot to lose.

  • Samardzija had great results in the pen last season, with the second best ERA of all Cubs pitchers (2.97) and the fourth most wins (8). By all accounts he improved last year and continued that improvement over the offseason. His success in 2011 and continued improvement do not guarantee success as a starting pitcher, but they are reasons for optimism.
    One statistic from 2011 with regard to Samaradzija does have me worried: His BABIP was .253, which makes me worry that his good results were flukey.
    But he's a homegrown power pitcher coming off a great season, he looks like a swashbuckler and he has irrational self confidence. He's really fun to watch and to root for, and I'm feeling optimistic about him.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    He did make a lot of strides last year, particularly with his control and command toward the end of the season. As you say, we'll see how it translates to the rotation. I don't think there's a lot of harm in finding out for sure.

    The BABIP is a little concerning but with the exception of 2009, it's been pretty low. Maybe it's tough to make good solid contact on him...though .253 does seem very low.

  • John, for the Rule 5 kid if he gets sent down at any point during the season does he have to be offered back to the Phillies?

  • In reply to Bilbo Baggins:

    Unfortunately, yes. He has to spend the entire year on the 25 man roster. They can send him down next year if they want.

  • I believe some moves will be announced after the game today and/or before the game tomorrow.

  • They're meeting tonight, so maybe we won't hear anything until tomorrow.

  • I like player moves almost as much as baseball.

  • It's a big part of the fun. I'm a huge fan of the game itself, but I have to admit, I like a good hot stove league as much as anyone.

  • 6 IP/3 Hits/1 Walk/0 Runs/35 far. Looks like he gets the last spot in the rotation unless he blows up in the 7th.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Agreed Everyone. Looks like he's locked things up! If this is a preview of what's the come then I'm going to be one happy guy.

  • 5 scoreless
    Struck out the side in the 5th
    Then roped a triple to lead off the 5th.

    Please tell me this atleast gives him a shot.

  • In reply to Bilbo Baggins:

    I think the job is his.

  • That's the book on Shark. 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 5 K. Pretty clear he locked up that No. 5 spot in the rotation. Good for him! Remember at the beginning of camp, no one was really taking him seriously as a rotation contender. It was supposed to be Wood or Wells, and if not them, then Coleman seemed like the next most likely. But I think Samardzija used those doubts to motivate himself. Now the question is whether that will carry over to the regular season. He can't afford to lose his focus now.

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