This is why Jeff Samardzija is the next guy the Cubs’ front office wants to lock up to a multiyear deal. It’s also why Samardzija has no intention of settling for a hometown discount, no matter how much he wants to stay in Chicago. As if an All-America football career spent getting slammed by NFL-bound safeties wasn’t enough to prove his fearlessness and competitiveness, there was Samardzija on Monday night, pitching the best game of his professional career on what’s probably the biggest stage he’ll be on this season. His first complete game. A two-hit shutout. The tone-setter in the four-day Crosstown Showdown. The power. The swagger. The future. The ace. Forget Chris Sale. The Cubs right-hander is Chicago’s pitching ace, as he proved in Monday’s 7-0 victory at U.S. Cellular Field. “That football mentality helps,” said teammate James Russell, who’s been around big-league baseball since his dad, Jeff, made All-Star teams as a starter, then a reliever. “He instills that fear in the batter, which a lot of guys don’t do.” On Monday, Samardzija had a 98 mph fastball working in the first inning, threw 97 on his 100th pitch and until a one-out walk in the ninth had faced just one batter over the minimum. “He was as good as anyone we’ve seen,” said Sox manager Robin Ventura, who compared him to young power-pitching Mets phenom Matt Harvey — a guy Ventura compared to Tigers ace Justin Verlander just a few weeks ago. Harvey. Verlander. “Stuff-wise, he’s as good as it gets in my opinion,” said Sox third-baseman Conor Gillaspie — the only South Sider with a hit until the ninth — of Samardzija. What about Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg? Former MVP Joey Votto of the Reds drew that comparison when talking to a Cubs coach this season — and then said it was no comparison. He’d rather face Strasburg, he told the coach. Russell, one of Samardzija’s closer friends in the clubhouse, isn’t surprised by the comparisons. “He’s a little harder mentally and stronger physically than a lot of those guys out there,” Russell said. “Yeah, Strasburg’s got 98 [mph], but you’re not as timid getting in the box against him as you would be against somebody like Jeff.” That’s why Samardzija is the front office’s next priority. Why he’s the manager’s best hope for a turnaround anytime soon. Why he’s Chicago’s ace.
Samardzija proves he’s city’s best, future of the Cubs
Chicago Sun-Times | May 28