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Jeff Samardzija content to roll the dice with regard to new deal

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija

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MESA, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija admits he might have taken a minute to think about last fall when he saw Chris Sale sign a five-year, $32.5 million extension with the White Sox last week, a deal that could exceed $57 million if the Sox pick up both option years.

But that doesn’t mean the Cubs’ Opening Day starter is second-guessing his decision to nix talks with the Cubs before they got past the lowball-offer stage at the end of last season.

“You look back,” Samardzija said, “and it’s always easy to look back and say you should have done this or done that. But to tell you the truth, what happened happened. We talked. It’s really not an issue for me anymore.”

With good health and good performance, they’ll talk again soon enough.

Samardzija is to the Cubs what Sale is to the White Sox, but with more big-league experience and with what Cubs brass projects as greater durability.

That’s why they wanted to lock him up to a five-year deal after he proved his value as a starter last season.

But Samardzija, who will be in Las Vegas the next time he pitches, is in no hurry to bet the “under” on his value when he believes at least as strongly as the front office in his durability and upside.

As manager Dale Sveum said of Samardzija early in camp, “No doubt I think we have a No. 1 guy.” A few weeks later Sveum backed that up by making what he called an “obvious” decision and giving Samardzija the opening assignment.

Unlike Sale — who had a one-year $600,000 deal for 2013 before the new deal replaced it — Samardzija signed a $10 million deal out of college and is guaranteed nearly $9 million since then, including $2.64 million this season.

“Every situation’s different,” Samardzija said. “What happened previously with the draft, and things like that, all play into it. The only image I’m trying to get across is that I’m here to play baseball.

“I’ve worked hard to get to this spot where I’m at today. It would be a shame for me to sit and waste it way by worrying about contracts and money. That’s just not part of it for me.

“I worked my tail off to get to this point to be a starter and be where we’re at today, to play baseball. I didn’t get into this spot to have some leverage.”

Of course, that’s exactly what he’ll have if he does this season what he expects and goes into another arbitration year with big numbers on the field.

But he has put the matter entirely into his agent’s hands and said he hasn’t given it enough thought to even say whether he would initiate talks down the road or if it’s in the Cubs’ court.

“That’s the beauty about this situation,” he said. “It’s not up to me. I’m not talking about it. I’m not pushing it. I’m not holding it back. I’m just here. I’m here to play baseball.”

He’s not even ruling out talks during the season if a quick start was to spur the Cubs, saying he’d “go by my gut” on that if it arises.

He’s happy for Sale, he says, and calls the left-handers deal “a nice contract.”

But “ everybody’s case is different. Everybody’s an individual,” he said.

In Samardzija’s case, he wasn’t happy with getting shut down a week into September because of the innings limit the club put on him — especially as he seemed to be finishing strong (2.58 in 11 second-half starts).

“I’m so worried about starting 32 times this year that I really can’t even describe anything else,” he said. “It’s just all that’s on my mind: playing this season and getting ready for Opening Day.”

ROCKIES 2,
CUBS 0

READY FOR ACTION: Right-hander Edwin Jackson, the Cubs’ $52 million free agent, faced just two over the minimum in five innings. He struck out two and gave up one run, three hits and a walk. After an RBI double by Troy Tulowitzki with two out in the first, Jackson retired eight in a row. “It was definitely a start where you take it in a positive direction,’’ he said. “We have a few more weeks left. It’s around the time where people start to pick up the tempo a little bit and be more ­aggressive.”

WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? Jackson got a big assist in shutting down the Rockies after the first inning when catcher Dioner Navarro picked Michael Cuddyer off first to end the fourth and threw out Jordan Pacheco trying to steal second on a third strike to Nolan Arenado. “Anytime you get extra outs with men on base, it’s definitely something you look forward to,” Jackson said. Said Navarro: “I like to throw to the bases a lot. Even if I don’t get the runner out, I like to keep him close. I love it when I catch a guy off guard.”

HAPPY RETURNS: Shortstop Starlin Castro (hamstring) and utility man Brent Lillibridge (groin) both returned from minor injuries. Castro started and batted third. He drew a walk and hooked a soft liner to left for a single in two trips to the plate. He also handled five chances in the field without issue. Lillibridge, a non-roster player with a strong shot at one of two bench openings, took over at second base in the seventh and flied to right-center in his only at-bat.

ON DECK: At Dodgers, 3:05 p.m. (live audio on cubs.com). Chris Rusin starts against the Dodgers’ Chris Capuano.

Gordon Wittenmyer



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