Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija threw a career-high 126 pitches in Monday night’s loss to the White Sox and the next day reporters asked him and manager Rick Renteria about the wisdom of letting him have such a big workload early in the season.
There was also some indications that the Cubs’ front office wasn’t thrilled with Renteria for allowing the 126 pitches to happen, especially in cold weather, to which Samardzija said:
This is an on-field issue for uniform personnel. That’s all there is to it. I’m a grown man. I’m 29. I’m not a prospect or 22. I feel good. I think I’m grown up enough and responsible enough to understand when I can go and when I can’t go. … But just from what it’s sounding like, there was a response. For me, it’s just something that we need to handle here in the clubhouse.
Which is fine, except you’re never going to see a pitcher say any differently and, obviously, being “a grown man” doesn’t preclude anyone from wearing down physically over the course of a season or, say, needing Tommy John surgery. Toss in the ongoing speculation about the Cubs possibly trading Samardzija rather than signing him to a long-term extension and there’s plenty of tension surrounding him and the front office right now.
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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.