Samardzija, Cubs win home spring opener

Jeff Samardzija made a strong spring debut and the Chicago Cubs
scored four unearned runs in the first inning against San Francisco
Giants ace Matt Cain, then held on for a 4-3 victory Sunday at
HoHoKam Stadium.

Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro, acquired as a free agent during the
winter, hit a three-run homer in the first inning after Alfonso
Soriano hit a line drive off the right leg of Cain and reached
first as the ball caromed away. Giants first baseman Brandon Belt
made a throwing error one batter earlier.

”We were a little concerned,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
”The knee started to swell a little bit. We were a little cautious
with the knee. He wanted to get back out there, but we shut him
down.”

Cain, who finished the inning but did not take the mound in the
second, said getting hit had nothing to do with giving up the home
run, and said he expects to make his next spring start on
schedule.

”It should be fine,” said Cain, who has been tabbed by Bochy
to make his first career opening-day start for the defending World
Series champions. ”Just some ice now. Nothing to worry about, I
don’t think.

”Maybe I’ve just got to start using my glove more – or actually
USING my glove.”

All four runs allowed by Cain were unearned because of a one-out
throwing error by first baseman Brandon Belt one play before
Soriano’s drive.

”The best thing is that he’s OK,” said Soriano, who also
singled to left-center in the third. ”That makes me happy.”

Samardzija gave up one run on three hits without a walk in his
two innings of work, striking out two.

”I was happy with how things went,” he said. ”The no walks
and fastball command was important.”

Considered a front-runner for the Cubs’ opening-day start,
Samardzija escaped far worse injury than Cain sustained. He ducked
and stumbled to avoid by inches Guillermo Quiroz’ drive toward his
head in the second inning.

An inning earlier Kensuke Tanaka got Samardzija with a glancing
shot on another shot up the middle -shortstop Starlin Castro turned
the carom into an out.

”Both of them were about as close as they get,” Samardzija
said. ”That’s part of the fun. You’ve got to be on your toes, be
ready to go. It’s better if you knock it down and get an out like
the first time.”

Last week while pitching batting practice to teammates,
Samardzija was nearly hit another time when second baseman Darwin
Barney hit a one-hop shot back through the box.

”After the second time (Sunday),” Navarro said, ”I went out
there and asked him where the magnet was.”

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the World Series MVP,
continued his strong hitting from winter ball, going 2 for 3,
including a run-scoring double off Cubs closer Carlos Marmol in the
third.

Sandoval, who duplicated his postseason MVP effort in the
Venezuelan League finals last month, started both of the Giants’
first two spring games (3-for-5, 2 RBIs).