Jeff Samardzija, the former Cub and White Sox and northwest Indiana guy, probably envisioned himself coming back to the Cubs as a free agent and making his first postseason start for the North Siders.
That didn’t happen, though, when the 31-year-old right-hander and the Cubs failed to make a connection during his free-agent opportunity last winter, and here he is, set to pitch an October game at Wrigley Field Saturday – for the Giants in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Giants manager Bruch Bochy gave Samardzija, who pitched for the Cubs from 2008 to the middle of 2014 when they traded him and Jason Hammel to Oakland in the deal that netted prized young shortstop Addison Russell, before Game 1 Friday. The choice was between Samardzija and left-hander Matt Moore, who will pitch Game 4 (if necessary) in San Francisco after postseason juggernaut Madison Bumgarner in Game 3.
“He’s pitched well, he’s earned this,’’ Bochy said of Samardzija. “I could have gone with either one.’’
But the “Shark” got the nod primarily because it was his turn and he hadn’t pitched since last Wednesday. Bochy didn’t want Samardzija, who has pitched to a 2.45 ERA over his last 10 starts, to get rusty.
Samardzija (12-11, 3.81), whom the Cubs once hoped to build a contending pitching staff around, talked to Cubs president Theo Epstein last fall. But Epstein didn’t want to go in for more than John Lackey’s two-year, $32 million deal while he was prioritizing big-ticket free-agent outfielder Jason Heyward.
“There were a handful of teams I could see myself playing for with the direction they were going,’’ said Samardzija, who singed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Giants on the heels of a season in which he allowed a career high 228 hits while going 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA for the Sox. “The strength of their division. The guys they had in their farm system. The Cubs checked all those boxes.
“I had good relationships with the people there [the Cubs], unfortunately when it came down to it we were kind of looking for different things. They were looking for something different [Heyward] out of the pitching staff.’’
Samardjiza pitched four innings at Wrigley Field on Sept. 1, allowing three runs. He needed 47 pitches to get through the first inning.
He planned to break down video of that one as he prepares for his first, coveted postseason start.
“Odds are I’m going to throw some sinkers, and we’ll go from there,” he said.