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.
The Pirates announced on Wednesday that the club acquired infielder Erik González along with minor league pitchers Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza in exchange for outfielder Jordan Luplow and infielder Max Moroff.
González, 27, is quite versatile, having played all four infield positions as well as both outfield corners. He has just a .681 career OPS across 275 plate appearances in the big leagues, though. González will provide infield depth for the Pirates, who are losing Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.
Thomas, 19, completed his second season at rookie ball. He pitched 19 2/3 innings, yielding 10 earned runs on 13 hits and 10 walks with 27 strikeouts.
Mendoza, 19, also just completed his second season at rookie ball. The right-hander pitched 37 1/3 innings, allowing 19 earned runs on 33 hits and 20 walks with 37 strikeouts.
Luplow, 25, has played 64 games in the big leagues as an outfielder, mustering a paltry .644 OPS in 190 plate appearances.
Moroff, 25, has played second base, third base, and short stop in the majors. He carries a career .625 OPS in 209 trips to the plate.