Reporters used to ask Jeff Samardzija questions about the worst-case, what-if scenarios, handicapping his chances to make the team or the rotation, wondering how he’d react to the idea of going to the bullpen.

Now the discussions are about long-term contract extensions and what it would mean to start Opening Day. Samardzija isn’t pitching for his career in spring training anymore.

So it didn’t matter that Samardzija felt like his “slider was garbage” during Sunday’s 4-3 win over the San Francisco Giants in front of 7,784 fans at HoHoKam Stadium. He was just glad that he was able to duck out of the way and not get hit by a line drive. He finished his two innings and gave up one run to the defending World Series champs.

It’s been one week since Matt Garza strained a lat muscle during a live batting practice session. He’s said to be feeling better, but the Cubs are still waiting for him to heal and don’t know exactly when he will be able to reboot his throwing program.

That would appear to make Samardzija – who said he hasn’t spoken about it with manager Dale Sveum yet – the odds-on favorite to start Opening Day.

“We’re still waiting to see what happens with 'Garz,' how he comes along,” Samardzija said. “They know where I stand on it and how I feel. But it’s nice to have a few guys that are capable of doing it. Hopefully, it gets decided out on the field instead of in the training room.

“Obviously, it’s more important to have 'Garz' ready for one of those first five games than rush him along and see what happens. He’s a really key part to this team, and we all know that.”