So far, Samardzija is living up to the hype

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So far, Samardzija is living up to the hype

CINCINNATI Jeff Samardzija lobbied hard to get this, and so far hes backed up all the talk about wanting to be in the rotation.

Theres probably too much instant analysis, too much fun with small sample sizes, but this is an everyday business. If Samardzija had gotten off to a slow start, the Cubs would have to spin how he has the right stuff, but is still learning on the job.

Theres no need when Samardzija is dealing like this, getting strike one with his fastball, mixing in his slider, finishing off hitters with his splitter and getting it up around 94 to 98 mph the entire game.

The education of Samardzija continued with Wednesdays 3-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. He didnt give up a hit until the fourth inning, and left with two outs in the eighth. He allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven.

It seems like things just keep getting more and more important, Samardzija said. It was important to have a big spring. It was important to have a good start and then as the season goes on, its going to be important to finish strong.

Its a game where you got to keep proving yourself. (You) cant get complacent and think your spots safe. Someones always nipping at your toes and you just got to keep pushing.

Through five starts, Samardzija is 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA and 32 strikeouts against 10 walks in 31.2 innings. He was pushed back a day and got another one because of Tuesdays rainout. The Cubs already have a plan in place thats going to monitor his workload as he transitions out of the bullpen.

There are going to be nights where its 87 degrees at first pitch and it all comes together. Ian Stewart whos hitting .173 and hadnt homered in almost three weeks drilled one 363 feet into the right-field seats.

Geovany Soto (.155) picked up his second RBI of the season with a single to left that gave the Cubs an insurance run in the sixth inning. Enigmatic closer Carlos Marmol worked a one-two-three ninth to earn his second save and finish off the Reds (11-12).

The Cubs (9-15) are only 24 games into the season, with 85 percent of the schedule still remaining.

Stewart had a tough year last year, Sveum said. But we didnt pick him up to give him 25 days (as) a chance, especially when (he) can be a two-way player. Its way too early, the weathers just starting to warm up (and) theres plenty of guys struggling.

(Albert) Pujols doesnt even have a home run yet. Prince Fielders hit one since the second day of the season. So its way too early to even think about any change or anything like that.

Sveum never got the job offer he sensed was coming from the Boston Red Sox last November. He took this one knowing it would come with a long runway. This is not the win-now team, and hes wired to be patient.

Ive been around too long to see the panic, Sveum said. These guys do have somewhat of a track record. Its not the elite track records, but they have put up good numbers and had good years in the big leagues.

I dont care what month it is, but everybody in this league is pretty much going to struggle for one month, if not two, out of the six months with their everyday players.

Realistically, the Cubs are looking at a rebuilding process that will take years. But having a one-two punch of Matt Garza and Samardzija at the top of the rotation could accelerate everything.

We didnt have the team meeting that said this is a rebuilding year, Samardzija said. We just kind of skipped that altogether. We want to win games. Every day you get a new chance to win a game.

We might have to do it a different way than, say, the Yankees or somebody (else). But pitching and defense goes a long way.

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Theo Epstein's front office is heading into Year 6 with the Cubs and they're finally talking about a pitcher as one of the organization's most exciting prospects.

That's how senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod framed his Dylan Cease report to fans at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago last weekend.

It was a tongue-in-cheek summation from McLeod after he spent the previous few minutes fawning over Cease, the Cubs' sixth round pick in 2014.

Of course, McLeod and the Cubs can poke fun at the lack of impact pitching the farm system has developed when the homegrown position players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber just helped lead the franchise to its first World Series championship in over a century.

Cease, however, has been one of the more intriguing Cubs prospects for years — a right-handed pitcher capable of touching 101 mph on the radar gun.

"This guy is throwing lightning bolts out of his arm," McLeod said. "It's really exciting. But we also understaned he's only in Low-A this year, so he's far away."

The Cubs expect Cease to pitch for Class-A South Bend in 2017 after spending last season pitching for short-season Eugene and the 2015 campaign working in the rookie league in Arizona.

Cease — who just turned 21 in late December — put up some impressive numbers at both stops in the Cubs system, posting a 2.36 ERA and 1.165 WHIP to go along with a whopping 91 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. He also only surrendered one homer and walked more batters (41) than reached via a basehit (39).

Control is obviously an issue for Cease, but the upside is evident.

"He's so far away," McLeod said. "He's gonna go into 2017 as a starter. As with a lot of young guys, it's gonna come down to command and depend on that third pitch and the ability to land them for strikes.

"It's a special arm. He can pitch 95-100 mph with a big power curveball. He's unlike anyone else we have in our system since we've been here in terms of pure stuff."

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One fan compared Cease to Carl Edwards Jr. in terms of their lanky build and high velocity, setting McLeod up for a layup joke.

"Well, Dylan is much stronger physically than CJ is...as is everybody in this room," McLeod said as the ballroom filled with laugher. "Don't tell [CJ] I said that. 

"They have different body types, obviously. Carl is long and lanky and Dylan has probably put on 20 pounds since we drafted him, so he's more like 6-foot-2, 190."

By comparison, Edwards — who goes by "The String Bean Slinger" for his slight build — is listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.

Edwards was drafted in the 48th round in 2011 and spent his whole minor-league career as a starting pitcher until the Cubs converted him to a reliever in 2015.

Cease may eventually go down the same path, but the Cubs are going to give him every opportunity to make it as a starter first.

Cease was one of the top pitchers available in the 2014 draft, but his stock took a hit when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow while at Milton High School in Georgia.

That scared off a lot of teams — as did the potential signability issues with college offers looming — but the Cubs took a chance and have now watched Cease soar to a top prospect in the system (No. 4 by Baseball America; No. 7 by FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) despite the cautious approach and lack of innings in professional ball.

"We have to thank Kyle Schwarber, actually, as one of the main reasons we got to sign Dylan Cease," McLeod said. "Because we took Kyle fourth overall, we were able to save money on the selection with him, which gave us the resources to go get Dylan Cease.

"He was a Top 10 pick in the draft — a high school arm that got hurt, fell down to the fifth round and he had a commitment to Vanderbilt, I think it was, and we were able to use the money we saved from Kyle.

"Just another reason to love Kyle Schwarber."

Could the Bulls go after Chris Bosh for next season?

Could the Bulls go after Chris Bosh for next season?

The basketball world woke up Friday morning to a report from ESPN senior writer Marc Stein saying the Bulls may go after Chris Bosh for the 2017-18 NBA season.

It's surprising and intriguing for multiple reasons: 

1) Bosh was believed to have played his last days in the NBA due to blod clot issues.

2) The Bulls are at something of a franchise crossroads, sitting as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference following Thursday's games and still determining what the right step is for the near future and the long term. 

3) Bosh will be 33 in March and hasn't played in an NBA game in nearly a year (last appeared with the Heat Feb. 9, 2016).

But Stein said the Heat are not planning on waiving Bosh before March 1, so he wouldn't be eligible to join the roster of a playoff contender.

Stein then says: If Bosh does return to the hardwood, "word is that the Chicago Bulls are already plotting a run and will be at the front of the line to try to sign him."

Bosh is an 11-time All-Star who has averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game throughout his career. He helped the Heat win several titles as part of the Big Three with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

Bosh was also just in Chicago visiting Wade earlier this month:

Could he form another Big Three with Wade and Jimmy Butler, this time in Chicago?

It's worth noting Wade just turned 35 earlier this week and will be in his 14th NBA season next year.