TEMPE, Ariz. — The first indication of how the White Sox pitchers are lined up to start the season came Saturday after Jeff Samardzija threw a 50-55 pitch simulated game on the backfields at Camelback Ranch. Pitching coach Don Cooper said Samardzija will pitch Tuesday against the Mariners in Glendale, which would set him up to face the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day April 6.
Manager Robin Ventura is in no rush to announce who will take Chris Sale’s place for the opener and was coy when asked about Samardzija’s schedule.
“Is that what it lines him up for?” Ventura said. “It might line him up for that but there is another B game down the road so you never know.”
Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper both cited previous Opening Day experience as possible factors, however. Jose Quintana, the other option and a good one at that, has a career 3.50 ERA but hasn’t pitched on Opening Day. Samardzija, who has started the last two openers for the Cubs — posting eight and seven scoreless innings in those starts — would be more than comfortable taking the ball in Kansas City.
“Any time you get an opportunity to pitch in a game like that, whether it’s a playoff game, play-in game, 163rd game, Opening Day, All-Star Game, any special games you obviously want to pitch in them,” Samardzija said Saturday. “But it’s so far away right now, I’m not even worried about that. I just want to get my work in and make sure I’m 100 percent mentally of where I need to be.”
Quintana’s next start is Wednesday, which lines him for the Sox’ second game in Kansas City on April 8. Right-hander Hector Noesi would go Thursday in Kansas City and John Danks would start the home opener against the Twins April 10. With more than three weeks to go before the season, all of this is marked in pencil.
“Every factor you can think of is looked at before we make a decision of what we are going to be doing,” pitching coach Don Cooper said, adding that Ventura will make the final decision.
Samardzija pitched a simulated game rather than take a start in a Cactus League game. He and Cooper both said they liked the direct interaction during working conditions. Here’s Samardzija, whom the Sox acquired via trade during the offseason, on the possibility of pitching the opener.