Samardzija ready for bullpen role

February, 16, 2011
2/16/11
4:15
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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Jeff SamardzijaJerry Lai/US PresswireJeff Samardzija is out of options, which means if he doesn't make the Cubs, he could be gone.
The Cubs have decided that right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija will be a major league reliever in 2011.

The Cubs have a group of what they consider to be six strong candidates to vie for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. And they believe Samardzija should thrive in the bullpen after honing his skills last season at Triple-A.

"I knew I was going to be in Iowa last year," Samardzija said Wednesday. "I was able to get with the coaching staff and get a plan together to go out and pitch and just let my athleticism take over.

"In the past, I've tried to do too many things. Now I'm confident with the pitches I throw."

Samardzija won 11 games last season in Iowa as a starter. The former Notre Dame All-America receiver is out of options, and that means unless he makes the major league roster, he's subject to waivers.

"Nowadays sports are different," Samardzija said. "A lot of guys jump around and play on different teams. [Leaving] crossed my mind, but I don't really see myself in any other jersey, just Cubbie blue. I'm happy where I'm at, and I really want to make this work."

Manager Mike Quade will be looking for a long man in the bullpen, and Samardzija might be the perfect fit.

"I think it would be huge for him to be able to do that," Quade said. "We asked Samardzija to go to Triple-A and start last year, and he did. That would lead me to believe that he could be stretched out."

Samardzija just wants to find a comfort level.

"I'm happy," he said. "I'm happy with how I feel. I'm happy how I'm throwing. If that's the job that's available, that's fine. The more innings, the better. That's a great role for me. I like how the role fits, as long as it's not 15-20 days in between."

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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