Saturday, July 5, 2014
Cubs bid farewell to Samardzija, Hammel
By Benjamin Standig
Professionally speaking, Jeff Samardzija grew up with the Cubs. Chicago selected the 6-foot-5 pitcher in the fifth round of the 2006 amateur draft. Samardzija made his big league debut in 2008, made 83 starts over the next six seasons and made plenty of friends in the locker room along the way.
Those days are done, with the Cubs anyway. After yearlong rumors, Chicago sent Samardzija and pitcher Jason Hammel to the Oakland A's late Friday night in a trade that looked more toward the future than the present.
Starlin Castro isn't concerned that the Cubs traded for top prospect Addison Russell, who also plays shortstop.
Samardzija's teammates focused on the past when asked for reaction before Saturday's road game against the Washington Nationals.
"We shared a beer and a cigarette and sent him on his way," reliever James Russell said. "It's not fun. We have been through this before. It's just tough to see your boys leave."
Second baseman Darwin Barney had a more difficult time finding the proper sendoff.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye to a dude. What do you do? Do you slap hands? Do you hug? It’s tough," Barney joked. "We’ve known each other for so long and we have built a relationship. He throws ground balls and I catch ground balls.”
Samardzija (2-7, 2.83) was scheduled to pitch Saturday. He is also scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season. The two sides could not come to terms on a long-term extension.
In his first season with the Cubs, Hammel improved to 8-5 after throwing 6-plus innings and allowing two runs in Chicago's 7-2 win over Washington on Friday.
Manager Rick Renteria spoke of the deal that sent two talented pitchers to the contending A's and heralded minor league shortstop Addison Russell among others to the retooling Cubs.
"I found out late last night. Two of your guys have been moved. Your first thought is you wish them well, which we do. They've thrown great for us, obviously. We hope they do exactly what Oakland is anticipating they do," Renteria said.
Next to go? The obvious next question for the 38-46 Cubs is what's next or rather who's next to go.
Renteria addressed the subject with the team.
"(I) let them know we lost two teammates, two friends. The realities (are) there are things we can't control. The things they can control are to continue to play the game. Go out there and continue to grind it out."
Players wouldn't be human if they weren't looking over their shoulder at least a little. Along with Russell, Chicago acquired minor league outfielder and 2013 first-round pick Billy McKinney plus pitcher Dan Straily.
Castro not worried: Russell, a consensus top 10 prospect across all of baseball, is the prize. The 20-year-old is on the fast track to the majors -- and plays the same position as Starlin Castro, the Cubs shortstop batting .290 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs this season. Despite the deal, Castro didn't appear concerned about his standing with the organization.
"I haven't talked to nobody (in the front office). I don't think they have to tell me anything," Castro said pregame. "I'm here. I play hard, I play good. It doesn't matter if they bring them here or we have to do something with me.
"You know, infielders play whatever position in the infield. Move me, move those guys, doesn't matter. Wherever they put me, I'll play."
As for whether he could be traded at some point, Castro said, "I don't know. I don't have that decision. It's business. A lot of things happen."
Chicago recalled LHP Chris Rusin from Triple-A Iowa before the game. In his lone appearance this season, Rusin allowed one run in five innings of relief for the Cubs on April 12. Reinteria said another reliever would be added to the roster Sunday.
As for the rotation, Jake Arrieta and Edwin Jackson are scheduled to pitch Sunday versus Washington and Monday against Cincinnati, respectively. Travis Wood will start one game in Tuesday's doubleheader versus the Reds.
Tsuyoshi Wada, 33, will be called up from Iowa to pitch the other game Tuesday. Reinteria wouldn't speculate as to which pitcher would start which game. He also wouldn't commit to giving the lefty-tossing Wada a permanent spot in the rotation.
When a team is in the midst of reshaping the roster, the future is tough to predict.
“Yeah, I mean my wife’s the only one left from 2011," Barney cracked.
"We got a good group of guys in here though. I get along with everyone and everyone kind of has the same goal. Hopefully we’re moving in that (winning) direction and obviously in the back of your mind you’re thinking ‘who’s next? Is it me?’ but you got to try and put that aside and focus on today. What I can control is today and I think that’s what we kind of have to do.”