Jeff Samardzija

Why is Jeff Samardzija in the majors?

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This isn’t a piece designed to answer that question. It’s an actual inquiry. What on earth is Jeff Samardzija doing in the Cubs bullpen?

Going into the spring, it seemed to be pretty much a given that Samardzija would have a roster spot because he was out of options and because the Cubs had so much invested in him, the result of a $10 million contract designed to prevent the former Notre Dame receiver from returning to football.

But the fact that the Cubs do have so much invested in Samardzija meant there wasn’t any real risk of losing him. Samardzija would have been exposed to waivers if the Cubs had send him down, but with a salary of about $2 million this year, there was no chance any team was going to claim him on waivers. It would have been terrific for the Cubs if some team had.

Because make no mistake, Samardzija isn’t a major league pitcher. He did manage to retire three of the five hitters he faced today, but the other two walked and came around to score off Marcus Mateo, leaving Samardzija with a 9.00 ERA through two innings for the season.

While Samardzija got off to a nice start in 26 relief appearances in 2008, his major league ERA now stands at 6.02 in 83 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 57 and walked 54 during that span.  Since the beginning of last year, he’s allowed 20 runs and posted an 11/24 K/BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings.

So why are the Cubs carrying him? It’s not like they bypassed any great alternatives, but they could have tried Todd Wellemeyer or Robert Coello. I agree about keeping Casey Coleman in the rotation at Triple-A Iowa, but using fellow prospect Chris Carpenter as a reliever would have made sense.

Anyway, I give it a month. Samardzija won’t last season the season with the Cubs, and my guess is that he’s designated for assignment within 30 days.  The Cubs may not be too much better for it, but every little bit will help.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.