Chicago Cubs

Start it up: Samardzija could get his wish in 2012

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Start it up: Samardzija could get his wish in 2012

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011Posted: 5:00 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
Box Score
WATCH: Lopez glad to get his team the win
READ: Starlin Castro feels right at home in Chicago

Once Jeff Samardzija committed to baseball, he had a clear idea of who he should be. Even as he struggled to establish himself in the big leagues, he wasnt shy about expressing his desire to be a starter.

Whatever the reasons a glaring need for rotation help, a weak free-agent class, Samardzijas growth as a pitcher the Cubs are gradually coming around to his way of thinking.

Even manager Mike Quade whos consistently said that Samardzijas more suited to being a reliever seems to have softened that stance.

There are plenty of reasons for people to mull over that and think about that possibility, Quade said Saturday. It looks like we need some starting pitching (and) its not rocket science (to) think about guys that have done it before.

Its like anything else around here just stay focused on finishing what youre doing now. (Hes) a big, strong guy. Could that be a possibility? Absolutely.

There are way too many variables to make a definitive statement, because there will be a new general manager with his own viewpoint. That executive will also decide the fates of the manager and his coaching staff.

Next year is the only prism through which you can view these games.

Rodrigo Lopez a 35-year-old who began the season pitching for Atlantas Triple-A affiliate gave up one run across six innings. Bryan LaHair a Pacific Coast League MVP at the age of 28 smashed the go-ahead homer. The Cubs hung on to beat the last-place Houston Astros 2-1 on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

Everybody knows Im fighting for a job next year, trying to find a spot somewhere, Lopez said afterward. Its very to important to finish strong and go home with a good feeling and make a case to get a job.

LaHair has forced the issue by hitting .433 (13-for-30) with seven walks in 11 games since his September call-up. He made an error in right field on Saturday as well as a nice running catch at the warning track. The Cubs (67-85) have a surplus of outfielders, but could need a first baseman if they dont re-sign Carlos Pena.

Lopez is now 6-6 with a 4.71 ERA and hit six innings for the second time in almost two months. The Cubs will have to at least explore some in-house options for the 2012 rotation, and much will depend on Andrew Cashners health.

Lets make sure we dont let a potential high-end starter just wind up in the bullpen without taking a shot, Quade said. It made perfect sense (this year). Its a damn shame he got hurt because we all wanted to see that experiment. Maybe it starts up again this winter.

Samardzija has pitched so well out of the bullpen 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 85.1 innings that the Cubs have started to think there could be more there.

Samardzija will be 27 next season and has already made the club options for 2012 and 2013 believed to be worth 6.5 million total seem like almost automatic pick-ups.

At this time last year, reporters were asking the former Notre Dame All-American if the start of football season made him re-think his decision. Now the sense is that Samardzija will be a big part of the 2012 Cubs.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

221.

That's how many pitches the Cubs saw during Wednesday night's 8-3 win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

11.

That's the amount of runners the Cubs left on base Wednesday.

To Joe Maddon, those numbers don't quite add up.

The Cubs had 20 baserunners on 10 hits, eight walks and a pair of errors committed by Sox fielders. Yet they only plated eight, going 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Over the last two games, the Cubs have seen 412 pitches and scored 15 runs, but they've also left 24 guys on base and and gone just 9-for-33 with runners in scoring position.

"The proverbial grinding of the at-bats has been there," Maddon said after Wednesday's game. "[221 pitches], you'd think we'd score — I'm not talking about being greedy — we need to capitalize more.

"Eleven runners left on base. Again, I'm not complaining. Just the fact that we have to be more efficient as we move further along. Keep working those at-bats and I think if we do, at some point, it's gotta catch up to us in a positive way where it comes back to us and the ball's gotta fall in better moments, too."

The Cubs have gotten out to a 10-2 start to the season's second half, averaging six runs a game during that stretch and forcing the opposition to throw 154.5 pitches per game.

The Cubs have rapped out 124 hits in those 12 games as opposing pitchers have only recorded four quality starts.

And for all the issues with runners in scoring position in the first half, Anthony Rizzo and Co. are hitting .293 (37-for-126) with guys in scoring position since the All-Star Break. (Even with that, they're still only 27th in baseball with a .238 average with RISP, showing just how much the team underperformend in that area in the first half.)

The Cubs are starting to look more and more like the 2016 version of themselves as a host of other players — led by Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist — have joined Bryzzo in consistently contributing offensively.

"It's very rare when you have a game where everybody hits to their full potential," said Rizzo, who had three hits and drove in four runs Wednesday. "It's guys carrying the load one day and some other guys doing it the next day."

That's been a different script than the one the Cubs were playing off of in the first three months of the season, when only Kris Bryant and Rizzo were reaching their offensive potential.

As the Cubs hit their stride and gear up for the stretch run, they're finally starting to click offensively.

And what's scary is there's still more left in the tank.

"We don't wanna leave guys on, but we want to keep putting guys on to give ourselves opportunity," Rizzo said. "As long as we come away with the win, it doesn't matter.

"We're putting together good at-bats as a unit. [Seeing a lot of pitches] is a good formula for us. We know that if we grind at-bats, good things will happen."

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan? Pt. 2

Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan? Pt. 2

The crosstown rivalry doesn't end on the diamond.

Both Cubs and White Sox fans are highly competitive when it comes to trivia, too. 

We found that out when we bounced around Guaranteed Rate Field to quiz North and South Siders in a special edition of "Are You Smarter than a Cubs/White Sox Fan?" 

Watch the video above as we pitted fans against each other for the chance to win a killer shirt.