MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Jeff Samardzija will be the Opening Day starter for the Chicago Cubs, who said Sunday that Matt Garza will start the season on the disabled list because of an injured muscle in his side that is preventing the right-hander from throwing.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Sunday that Samardzija will start at Pittsburgh on April 1. He was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA last season, when he had a 2.39 ERA in his last seven starts.
“He is a guy the players rally around because of his bulldog mentality when he is one the mound,” Sveum said. “It is a very obvious choice really.”
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Samardzija will be joined in the rotation by Travis Wood, Carlos Villanueva, Edwin Jackson and Scott Feldman.
A former star wide receiver at Notre Dame, Samardzija made his major
league debut with the Cubs in 2008 but spent much of the next two
seasons in the minors.
“I went through some humbling baseball
experience in ’09 and ’10. It put a lot of things in perspective,”
Samardzija said. “I’m excited. The best thing as an athlete is to see
all your hard work lead to positive gains from it. You get some taste of
success and you want to keep that rolling. That’s where I am right
Garza’s batting-practice session was cut short on Feb. 17 because of the injured latissimus dorsi muscle. He rested 10 days and was in the second day of a throwing program on flat ground when he felt more tightness Saturday. He won’t throw for the next week.
“It’s a minor setback,” Sveum said. “Now you’re looking at him getting two (exhibition) starts at the most.”
Sveum said Garza will miss the first two weeks to a month of the season.
“He is down about it,” Sveum said. “Obviously, he was looking forward to it going well. He felt OK the first time. Yesterday it just didn’t go well.”