Jeff Samardzija heats up Cubs rotation competition

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It looked like six pitchers for five spots initially, but with Jeff Samardzija having made a strong early impression on new manager Dale Sveum, there are currently seven pitchers in the mix for the Cubs rotation.

The givens are Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, though Garza’s name has been a very popular one in trade rumors. After those two were expected to be Paul Maholm and Randy Wells, leaving newcomers Chris Volstad and Travis Wood competing for one spot. Samardzija’s emergence, though, has broadened the competition and perhaps left Wells vulernable to being replaced.

Volstad, for what it’s worth, has answered the bell early on. He pitched three scoreless innings in a win against the Giants on Tuesday, bringing his spring total to six scoreless frames. Samardzija has allowed two runs in his six innings and boasts a nice 6/0 K/BB ratio. Wells has pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings, while Wood has allowed one run in 2 1/3 innings.

Since Wood, who came over in the Sean Marshall deal, has options left, he seems the most likely candidate to be bumped now. Samardzija then could take the spot of either Volstad or Wells if he’s promoted from the bullpen. Wells has seen his ERA jump from 3.05 in 2009 to 4.26 in 2010 and 4.99 last season, so there’s no reason he should be promised anything.

Former minor leaguer Aaron Cox, brother-in-law of Mike Trout, dies at 24

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Aaron Cox, until recently a minor leaguer in the Angels’ system, and the brother-in-law of Angels star Mike Trout, has died at the age of 24. The circumstances of Cox’s death are not known. Trout, who is married to Cox’s sister, Jessica, has left the Angels to be with his family and will likely miss the next couple of games.

Cox, like Trout, was a star at Millville High School in New Jersey. He was a few years behind Trout and went on to play at Division II Gannon University, where he pitched a no-hitter. He was drafted by the Angels in the 19th round of the 2015 draft and pitched for three seasons as a reliever in the lower rungs of the Angels system. This season he pitched 11 games for high-A Inland Empire but had recently retired. He had missed the entire 2017 season after being hit in the eye by a line drive during spring training and then getting a 50-game suspension for unauthorized use of a stimulant.

The Angels just released a statement from the Trout and Cox families:

Early this morning our families lost a phenomenal human being. Aaron Cox was a tremendous son, brother, and brother-in-law. He had a deep love for his family and a passionate dedication and commitment to his friends. As our families grieve together, we will also celebrate the memories, the laughter, and the love we each shared with Aaron in the short time we had him. He will forever be at the forefront in the hearts and minds of the Cox and Trout families. We will rely on the love and strength of God first and foremost during this difficult and channeling time, as well as our dear family and friends. We thank you for your thoughts and prayers, and our Lord and Savior for His precious gift of Aaron Joseph.