From Nick Cafardo’s Sunday notes column in the Boston Globe …
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Cubs — Samardzija, who is 0-4 with a 1.46 ERA, is being watched more than any pitcher by major league scouts. Among those watching are the Blue Jays, who are more convinced than ever they can win the AL East if they obtain a top starter. While they struck out on Samardzija before, one major league scout said they haven’t given up trying to repackage but are still insistent on not giving up Drew Hutchison. Whether it be Samardzija or someone else, the Jays have all hands on deck, including special adviser Fred McGriff.
Toronto is currently in first place in the American League East standings with a record of 28-22 and will carry a two-game division lead into Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the visiting Oakland A’s. But it’s offense that has been carrying the 2014 Blue Jays — their staff ERA of 4.22 ranks 25th in the major leagues and their 1.42 staff WHIP ranks 28th.
Samardzija is making $5.345 million in his second year of arbitration. He can hit free agency after 2015.
Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.
Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.
With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.