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Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Jeff Samardzija doesn't get pitch-count fuss

By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- There might be other people -- perhaps his agent or the Chicago Cubs front office -- concerned with pitcher Jeff Samardzija’s pitch count from Monday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. But he’s not worried.

Samardzija threw a career-high 126 pitches over nine innings in the eventual 3-1 loss, and two days later, he feels just fine with the decision to stay in the game.

"This is an on-field issue, for uniform personnel," Samardzija said Wednesday afternoon. "That’s all there is to it.

Jeff Samardzija
"Do I want to go out and throw 120 pitches every time?" Jeff Samardzija said. "Absolutely not. But ... there are times when it needs to get done, and someone has to do it."
"I’m a grown man of 29. I’m not a prospect of 22. I feel good. I think I’m grown up enough and responsible enough to understand when I can go and when I can’t go."

Samardzija is old school that way. He doesn’t get the concern over pitch counts, but Cubs brass undoubtedly does, especially with a commodity like Samardzija, who could bring them a huge haul come trade time.

But only if he’s healthy.

"You don’t like to see a guy get [his pitch count] up that high," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday. "That said, I also think pitch counts, in general, are a number. And we don’t have enough knowledge to know at what number things turn into danger and when they don’t. So, because of that, we focus a lot on pitch stress."

Samardzija gets it. He knows it’s not a slam dunk that he’ll be able to throw that many pitches very often.

"Do I want to go out and throw 120 pitches every time?" he asked. "Absolutely not. Hell no. I do not. But there are times when it calls for it. There are times when it needs to get done, and someone has to do it."

Samardzija says he and his manager are on the same page. They talked in spring training and the pitcher told Rick Renteria he "likes to pitch." If there is a concern by the front office about pitch counts, Samardzija isn’t interested. But that doesn’t mean Hoyer and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein are wrong in being on top of the situation. The last thing anyone wants is an injured pitcher.

"I know Jeff was fantastic; he looked very strong late in the game," Hoyer said. "But, certainly, after an outing like that, we’re all going to sit down and discuss it, and, just like I said, if a guy went 104 pitches in five innings, we’d discuss that, too, because it’s equally as stressful."

Samardzija has had his share of stressful games, but Monday wasn’t one of them. He didn’t walk a batter until the ninth inning, and one pitch after what Renteria had determined was his limit at 125, he induced a double-play grounder to end his final inning.

"It’s unfortunate where we’re coming to the point in the game where this is news," Samardzija said. "It shouldn’t [be]. It should be the other way around. Why did this guy only throw 75 pitches and then come out of the game after five innings?"

There’s that old-school mentality again. Samardzija has never had arm problems, began his career as a starting pitcher later than most and is as good an athlete as you’ll find. That was on display on Monday as well. Ultimately, if the Cubs have a problem with him staying in the game, Samardzija will understand it but still might not like it.

"If Ricky doesn’t like how many pitches I threw, he’ll come up to me and say, 'Hey, Jeff, that may not happen again, so enjoy it while you can,'" Samardzija explained. "It’s his butt on the line when it comes to those decisions, so he has the right to make the decision he feels is necessary."

And, ultimately, Renteria will have to make the decision based on what his bosses tell him, hence that sitdown Hoyer was talking about. Expect a reduced workload for Samardzija come Saturday in Atlanta, where he starts next. But it probably won’t be by the pitcher’s request. He liked how things worked out throwing as many pitches as he did.

"That feels pretty comfortable for me," he said.