Now the ace of the Cubs' depleted rotation, Jeff Samardzija leads the team in wins, innings and strikeouts.
The 27-year-old has gotten to 139 2/3 innings in his first full season as a starter, almost 30 more innings than he has ever has thrown.
Samardzija leads the Cubs in wins (eight), innings and strikeouts (141) after the trade of veteran starters Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. Wear and tear does not seem to be a problem for Samardzija.
“My arm is really not 27,” Samardzija said. “I didn’t pitch in summer ball in high school, and I didn’t pitch in fall ball in college. I also didn’t pitch in the summer after I got drafted so you can draw your own conclusion. I feel great and believe I have let my body grow and my arm develop fully before I really put any stress on it.”
Teammates have marveled at what Samardzija is capable of in workouts and side work.
“I work hard in between starts to stay strong , get my rest and eat the right foods,” Samardzija said. “Staying on top of my conditioning is the No. 1 thing for me. That and to be consistent for the coaching staff. That is so they know every fifth day I will be ready to pitch.”
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein is watching the innings mount up but has not put a shutdown date for Samardzija yet.
“We’re monitoring things and talking about it, but it is not something we have engaged him on,” Epstein said. “We have just let him go, but we have (the whole staff) talking about it. We will do what is best for him long term.”
The translation of Epstein’s comments is not that difficult to figure out. Sometime in early to mid-September the Cubs will shut him down when Samardzija hits the 160- to 175-inning plateau.
“Obviously they are going to do what they feel is best for me,” Samardzija said. “If I do show them my arm is strong, and I continue to improve at 100 pitches maybe they won’t feel the need to shut me down.”
The smart money says Samardzija will have the last couple of weeks in the 2012 season to rest and look ahead to next spring.