MESA, Ariz. – Jeff Samardzija had no fear going over the middle as an All-American wide receiver at the University of Notre Dame. The Cubs pitcher has no interest in wearing a protective cap on the mound. He’s never even considered the idea.
“No, they look stupid,” Samardzija said.
Samardzija’s not the type to think about the nightmare. It was out of mind during Thursday’s 3-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Cubs Park, which set another Cactus League attendance record (15,243).
The night before, Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman had taken a line drive off his face. Chapman has 100 mph velocity and the ball jumped off the bat when Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez connected at Surprise Stadium. Chapman would be hospitalized, needing a metal plate in his head to surgically repair the fracture above his left eye.
“It’s like the old-school days in hockey,” Samardzija said. “Those guys weren’t asking for helmets. They made them put ‘em on. But we know we put ourselves at risk when we go out there. You need to be ready for that any time.
“I think in spring training, it’s more common, just because your sense of awareness and how much you’re into it isn’t necessarily like the season. It just goes to show that anytime, anywhere, whether you’re doing live BP or throwing a bullpen, anything can happen. So you just got to be ready all the time.”
Samardzija felt ready for the season to start after going 5.1 innings and giving up two runs on six hits and two walks against eight strikeouts. There’s only one more tune-up left for the Opening Day starter.
The Cubs have been in Arizona for five weeks already. Mike Olt (shoulder) made it through his first game at third base this spring. Starlin Castro (hamstring) continues to get treatment. Jake Arrieta (shoulder) is supposed to throw around 35 pitches on Friday in a two-inning simulated game. Samardzija spoke for everyone when he said: “Let’s get this show on the road.”