Samardzija among latest Cubs cuts
Manager Piniella impressed by young right-hander
MESA, Ariz. -- Pitcher Jeff Samardzija was optioned to Double-A Tennessee and pitcher Shingo Takatsu was granted an unconditional release on Tuesday in the Cubs' second round of roster moves.
The Cubs also optioned right-handed pitcher Juan Mateo and outfielder Jake Fox to Triple-A Iowa, and reassigned non-roster invitees Ed Campusano, Luis Figueroa and JD Closser to Minor League camp.
The spring roster is now 42 players, including 21 pitchers, three catchers, 11 infielders and seven outfielders.
Samardzija, the former Notre Dame wide receiver, had appeared in two games this spring, totalling three innings. He was roughed up in his last outing against Oakland, giving up two runs on four hits in one inning, getting charged with a blown save.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella said he saw a different pitcher in camp.
"He was more poised, more relaxed, better quality of his pitches," Piniella said. "Last year, he threw hard and overpowered hitters here in camp, but this year he pitched more. He had a better sinker, tighter slider. He worked on a changeup. He was starting to develop a split-finger, which he didn't use in these games, but he's getting better with."
Could Samardzija be called up to the Majors by the end of the season?
"It's up to him, obviously," Piniella said. "He's certainly one of the kids down there who has a chance. We brought up five players last year from our Double-A club. If you're pitching well and we need help, we'll get the person who the organization feels can help us the most."
This was Samardzija's second Major League spring camp, and it was a lot different from last year's.
"I think there was a little better relationship, and not just with the players but the coaches," Samardzija said. "The feel out process is over from last year, and it was more personal -- 'Let's work on things and make things better.' It's a good thing to carry over into the summer and next season."
The right-handed pitcher, who was the Cubs' fifth-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, began last season at Class A Daytona, and was bumped up to Tennessee, where he went 3-3 with a 3.41 ERA.
Samardzija hasn't set a timetable as to when he wants to be in the big leagues. At least not publicly.
"I don't really know," he said. "I want to go down there and get my innings in as a starter and get into every fifth day mode. My job is to pitch as well as possible and make it hard on them. We'll see what happens."
At least Samardzija wasn't peppered every other day with questions about the conversion from football to baseball.
"That's what I'm working towards -- it gets a little tired after a while hearing 'Former Notre Dame football player,'" he said. "Any time you can 'X' that out, it'll be nice. That's something I have to do. You have to be successful playing baseball for that to shut up. That's the plan. We'll see what happens."
He learned a lot in his brief time in big league camp.
"I don't think you come here to be happy and show your face," he said. "Everyone's competing, but everyone's here for the team, too. Everyone's here to learn and grow. I think I'm one of the guys who had the most to learn and grow, so we'll see what happens. I'll make the best of things and go from there."
"He impressed in camp," Piniella said. "His hair got shorter, too. I told him by August, he'll be in a crew cut."
In Takatsu's penultimate appearance, on Saturday against Oakland, he gave up two runs on two hits and one walk in two-thirds of an inning, taking the loss and blowing a save opportunity. In five games this spring, he had a 9.64 ERA.
The right-hander, who has more than 300 saves in Japan, hasn't thought about what's next for him. He will contact his agent.
"If I have an opportunity, I'm eager to pitch some more," he said, through interpreter Ryuji Araki.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.