Jeff Samardzija entered Saturday’s start against the Pirates with full knowledge that it would be his last. Over the next couple of hours, he pitched like a man wanting to make a grand final statement.
The former Notre Dame wideout struck out nine batters in a complete-game victory at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, allowing just four hits and two earned runs while fanning nine. He threw 120 pitches — 81 of which were strikes — as the Cubs rolled 4-3.
Samardzija was merely a setup man last season and seemed destined to remain one for the rest of his career, but the rebuilding Northsiders decided to give him a crack in the rotation this spring and may have found themselves a top-end starter to build around.
The 27-year-old will finish up with a 3.81 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and a 180/56 K/BB ratio in 174 2/3 innings. He topped out at 88 frames in the Cubs’ bullpen last year, which is why he’s being shut down prematurely.