After announcing that Matt Garza will start the season on the disabled list Sunday, manager Dale Sveum revealed the obvious.

Former Notre Dame football star Jeff Samardzija will be the Cubs' opening-day starter on April 1 in Pittsburgh.

It has been a long and crooked road for Samardzija since he signed a five-year, $10 million, deal in 2007 after only 30 innings of pitching at Class A.

The big contract for an unproven pitcher was necessary to persuade Samardzija not to enter the NFL draft, where he likely would have been a first-round pick. But the contract became an albatross as Samardzija went through some growing pains, leaving some to wonder whether former general manager Jim Hendry put his Notre Dame-loving heart before his head.

Samardzija was up and down from Triple-A Iowa to the Cubs, both starting and relieving from 2008 to 2011 before finally getting his chance to stick in the rotation last spring.

"I went through some humbling baseball experiences in '09 and '10," Samardzija said. "It puts a lot of things in perspective. I'm excited. The best thing as an athlete is (doing) all your hard work and you see positive gains from it.

"It gets you to keep working hard and keep improving. You get a little taste of success and you want that to keep going. I really feel that's where I'm at right now. I want to keep the ball rolling for sure."

With Garza out, the choice was between Samardzija and free agent Edwin Jackson. Samardzija had the upper hand, in part, because he's a homegrown kid from Northwest Indiana and a fan favorite.