Samardzija Not Ready To Give Up Starting





PEORIA, Ariz.—With two spots in the starting rotation up for grabs, this would be a perfect time for Jeff Samardzija to make his move.

The two-sport athlete at Notre Dame made a big splash in 2006 when he signed up with the Cubs as a fifth-round pick and gave up a potential football career. He has shown flashes of brilliance in four seasons but his overall body of work is a 20-25, 4.28 mark in 77 minor league appearances (including 71 starts) and a 2-3, 5.20 mark in 46 major league appearances (including two starts).

Some may argue that shuffling from being a starter in the minors to a reliever in the majors back and forth over the past couple of seasons has hurt his progress.

Whatever the reason, he has the best shot of his career to make the starting rotation because the fifth spot is open and Ted Lilly's shoulder and knee concerns have created a temporary opening for another spot.

Samardzija, 25, showed up a few weeks before pitchers and catchers were required to report at Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz., and he's eyeing a spot in the rotation.

"When it comes to the future . . . you never know," he said. "But I want to give starting a fair enough shot. I feel with my body and with my arm I can be a successful starting pitcher who goes deep into games every fifth day. I feel that can happen.

"Being a young guy, there's still stuff I need to work on, and coming from a football background, maybe there's even more to work on. I want to give (starting) its fair shot. I've done it my whole life."

In two September starts, he went 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA.

Samardzija's fastball is in working order, but he worked on tightening up his curve during a five-start stint in Mexico over the winter.

"I thought I made some good adjustments and worked on the curveball a little bit," he said. "I made the pitch more what fits my style better. Instead of trying to throw a big (12-to-6) curveball, I wanted to come out with an aggressive curveball that gets guys swinging."

Cubbyhole

• With Angel Guzman sidelined early in camp with knee issues, Esmailin Caridad and Justin Berg became the early camp leaders for the righthanded set-up man role.

• The Cubs signed outfielder Jason Dubois to a minor league deal. Traded from the Cubs to the Mets last August before becoming a free agent, Dubois begins his third stint with the organization which drafted him in the 14th round in 2000.