Today Jeff Samardzija made a strong claim to be in the Cubs starting rotation, pitching 6 innings of shutout ball in a Cubs 2-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Hohokam Stadium. Shark allowed a double to Jason Kipnis to open the game, but only two singles after that. He seemed to get stronger as the game went on. Samardzija walked only one batter while whiffing 5 Indians in front of 8,911 fans on a warm sunny Mesa day. Carlos Marmol, Jeff Russell and Rafael Dolis each pitched a scoreless frame, although Dolis made it interesting in the ninth inning by walking two Indians with the Cubs holding only a two run lead.
Samardzija the former Notre Dame wide receiver showed his wheels legging out a triple after Indian’s left fielder Russ Canzler allowed the ball to get past him. On his first plate appearance, Samardzija brought a little humor to the ballpark as he trotted to first base after drawing a walk, problem was it was still a 3-2 count. He was half way to first base before realizing his mistake. Steve Adams our scoreboard operator who sits in the same booth as I do, initially was freaked out because he thought he had messed up the count. Steve was relieved and laughed when he saw Jeff turn around and head back to the plate.
The Cubs didn’t need much offense, but finally broke through against Indian’s starter Josh Tomlin in the sixth with four singles. Alfonso Soriano and Ian Stewart started it off and were driven home by Bryan LaHair and Joe Mather respectively. Stewart also led off the second inning with a double, but like Samardzija when he led off the fifth inning with a triple, was left stranded. Cubs First baseman Bryan LaHair who started off slowly at the plate this spring has been steadily improving; with his hit today his batting average is up to .310.
Cubs defensive notes: Ian Stewart made a nice charging play on a slow roller, then turned and nailed the lead runner for a force at 2nd base. Starlin Castro ranged far towards the outfield grass behind second base to snag a Shin-Soo Choo grounder, then whirled and threw Choo out at first base to end the third inning. Castro also made a nice running catch on Casey Kotchman’s foul pop to the left field line. Castro would come back later and make an almost identical play to the left field line catching Carlos Santana’s looping popup. Castro made long runs on both those balls before making each catch. The Cubs young shortstop seems to be alot more focused on his defense this spring, and that could pay big dividends for the team moving forward.
About one third to half of the Cubs fans in the stands were on their feet cheering as the final out was made, that doesn’t happen much in spring training games. I noticed something interesting in Cleveland’s Press Game Notes, on the far back corner is the “Tribe on Twitter”, all the players and staff with Twitter accounts. Nice to see a team embrace the new media with a published list. One of the former Cubs hot prospects Felix Pie got into today’s game for Cleveland. Pie is a non-roster invitee with the Tribe after spending the past 3 seasons with Baltimore.
Our Boys of Spring game photographer John Antonoff, will be back for the rest of the games, so you won’t have to see any more lame pics of sharks.
I know that you’ve all been eagerly awaiting the Boys of Spring – Best Cubs Site Awards (ok, you probably forgot), but they are going to happen – finally! Look for the BOS-BCS Awards next week; so you’ll be fully fortified with all the Cubs websites and info you need before opening day.