WASHINGTON – Cubbie Occurrence: Jeff Samardzija is going to the All-Star Game, but can’t pitch for the National League team.
The All-Star selections unveiled Sunday summed up some of the mixed feelings surrounding the Cubs and their long-term rebuild.
Starlin Castro becomes a three-time All-Star shortstop, while Anthony Rizzo could get invited to next week’s showcase as one of five players in the Final Vote. That again shows the Cubs have two 24-year-old franchise cornerstones worth the $100 million-plus investment.
But Samardzija had been the longest-tenured player in the clubhouse – until a Fourth of July deal with the Oakland A’s. After getting voted in by the players, he can go to Target Field in Minneapolis, hit all the All-Star parties and watch from the sidelines.
“Hopefully I see him there,” Rizzo said. “Good for Jeff. Being traded from here is probably not easy for him, because Chicago is all he knows. But it’s a big accomplishment, being an All-Star. Not everyone can say that.”
Samardzija got a standing ovation on Sunday at the Coliseum, allowing one run in seven innings as the A’s swept the Toronto Blue Jays with a 4-2 victory.
Samardzija had to wait until Memorial Day before getting his first win and a beer shower. He went 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Cubs and now gets the adrenaline rush of a pennant race.
“Very deserving nonetheless,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “Kind of an unusual situation there, obviously, being with Oakland. But you got to credit the guy for what he did with us here. We’re happy for him. But, yeah, it’s not something you see every day.”
Castro isn’t taking this one for granted. He committed to an offseason conditioning program back home in the Dominican Republic, cleared his head and rediscovered his swagger.
The players selected Castro, who’s taken over the cleanup spot, hitting .287 with 11 homers and 51 RBI, while continuing to focus on his defense.
“I’m more excited about this year after a really bad year,” Castro said. “Last year helped me, too. It made my mind a little stronger. This year, I’m working really hard and not trying to think about the bad habits or the negative things. Just (think) positive things and be at an All-Star level again.”
Rizzo is coming into his own, putting up 17 homers, 45 RBI and an .871 OPS. He’s going up against Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau, Washington Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon, Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee and Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton in the Internet promotion.
After all the questions about Rizzo and Castro, this also says something about where the franchise is at, despite the Samardzija stuff.
“It’s kind of right in your face,” manager Rick Renteria said. “These are two kids that were highly touted and now one’s already back to being an All-Star and another one that’s maybe on the cusp of it. So if anything, maybe it just validates the process, the time that everybody’s putting in and the steps that are being taken to move the organization forward.
“There have been a few clubs in the past that have had six, seven, eight All-Stars. Hopefully, the Cubs are going in that direction and going out there and playing good baseball and maybe winning long-term.”