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.
We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.
McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.
Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.
The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.
Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.
Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.