Cubs manager Dale Sveum told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune Sunday in camp that right-hander Jeff Samardzija is a “near lock” for a spot in the team’s regular-season starting rotation.
Samardzija finally found major league success last year in the Chicago bullpen, posting a 2.97 ERA and tallying 87 strikeouts in 88 innings of work. He was especially sharp after the All-Star break, and the Cubs’ decision-makers will hope that he can ride that momentum into positive results in his new gig.
Samardzija was drafted as a starter out of Notre Dame and served mostly as a starter in the minor leagues, so the transition isn’t going to be a complete adventure. But the 27-year-old former wide receiver has walked 100 batters in 169 2/3 career major-league innings, and it’s safe to wonder whether those control issues will haunt him.
For what it’s worth, Samardzija hasn’t walked a single batter this spring in three Cactus League starts.
Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area hints that the Giants may be done with outfielder Hunter Pence. It’s not clear just how seriously the club is contemplating such a decision, but there are six days remaining on Pence’s rehab assignment, at which point they’ll be able to recall him, reassign him to the minors or release him.
The 35-year-old outfielder has struggled to make a full recovery after spraining his right thumb during the first week of the season. Pence bounced back for a 17-game run with the Giants in April, during which he slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 with one double and one stolen base in 61 plate appearances, but was eventually placed on the disabled list with recurring soreness in his finger. He currently sports a promising .318/.359/.388 batting line with four extra-base hits (including a grand slam) over 92 PA in Triple-A Sacramento.
Despite his recent resurgence in Triple-A, the Giants may not need the additional outfield depth just yet. Mac Williamson, who was recalled in the wake of Pence’s DL assignment, has already cemented the starting role in left field and is off to a strong start at the plate as well. Of course, if the Giants decide to say a premature goodbye to their veteran outfielder (who, it should be said, helped them to two World Series championships over the last seven seasons), it’ll cost them the remaining balance on his $18.5 million salary for 2018.