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Samardzija says he's ahead of schedule

3/3/2015

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija loved every minute of his first game action with the Chicago White Sox, even if it was just an intersquad game, and even though he did give up two runs in his first of two innings of work.

The first-year White Sox starter did admit to looking down at his uniform top Tuesday, just to confirm it was real, but he has always had an appreciation for his line of work no matter if it was with the Chicago Cubs, the Oakland Athletics or now on the South Side.

“I look at the front and go from there,” Samardzija said. “I’ve said many times, it’s just an honor to have a big league uniform on. I’m lucky to have had some ups and downs in my career so you appreciate every chance you have to put one on and you represent it well. Any time you’re on the mound you act like it’s your last time up there. That’s how you have to treat it.”

Facing White Sox hitters, he gave up two runs in the first inning, one on a ground out from Melky Cabrera and another on a sacrifice fly from Adam LaRoche. The speedy Micah Johnson had led off the game with a soft-hit single and Emilio Bonifacio followed with a bunt single.

Samardzija settled down from there, giving up his two runs on three hits over his brief two innings of work. He isn’t scheduled to make his Cactus League debut until Sunday.

“Right into midseason form pushing into that sixth inning when the first two guys get on and you’re protecting a one-run lead,” Samardzija joked about the start to his outing. “That’s the exciting thing about facing live hitters, and in this case a scrimmage, but you know, spring training you can throw as many bullpens as you want but you don’t get the same experience as live games.

“It’s good to feel the arm. My arm feels great. It’s coming out real good. You do what you do to keep getting stronger and build from here.”

There was already a sense that Samardzija would push himself this season, not only because he is with the team he rooted for as a kid, but mainly because he will become a free agent after the season. A strong season could push him toward $20-million-a-year territory.

And after his brief outing, the right-hander seemed to confirm that he will be stepping on the gas from the outset.

“I held back a couple pitches last year in spring training and it affected me early in the season so this year I started throwing all my pitches before camp so coming in I was 100 percent ready,” Samardzija said. “For me these next handful of starts will be about getting on same page with (catcher Tyler Flowers), what pitches I like to match up, let him realize what I like to do, how I like to put guys away and when do we want action, when do we want a strikeout. So for me that will be big.”

In the interim, he will continue to get to know about his teammates as well as the coaching staff. He hasn’t even been in camp for two weeks and he already knows he’s going to like working under manager Robin Ventura.

“He’s my type of guy for sure,” Samardzija said. “When it’s business, it’s business and when it’s not we don’t need to talk about business. Robin is great with relationships and personalities and as a manager that’s so important to know your guys and what makes them tick, what makes them happy and what gets you angry.

“That’s what he’s all about and he understands you win those games on the field. You don’t win those games on the lineup card or making moves. Those 25 guys on the field win and lose the games. As long as you’re comfortable with the 25 guys you have, you can tell it’s easy for him to put the lineup up and do a few things as a manager.”

Compliments toward the manager are always a smart thing, especially when that manager might have to select a new Opening Day starter. Samardzija has started the last two Opening Day games for the Cubs and could do the same with the White Sox because of the foot injury to Chris Sale.

“The good thing is it’s early so we have plenty of time to figure this out and who’s going to go when,” Samardzija said. “It’s also great we have a lot of depth so there are a lot of options. If one guy goes down we have enough to fill the void. That’s the mentality we’ll keep all year. We’re going to need 30 (guys) to finish the season out and be where we want to be. We’re going to let it all hang out until the wheels fall off.”

Intrasquad results: The Shirts team led by Double-A manager Julio Vinas pulled off a 6-4 victory over the Skins team, led by Triple-A manager Joel Skinner. Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu each went 0-for-2 for the Skins, while Tim Anderson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs.

Johnson was the spark-plug for the Shirts team out of the leadoff spot, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two steals. Trayce Thompson hit an opposite field home run to right for the Shirts, off right-hander Chris Beck.