MESA, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija found himself in his former spring-training home Sunday, debuting for his new team against one of his former teams.
It was a strange convergence of his past, which included several springs at Hohokam Stadium as a member of the Cubs before a trade to the A’s in the middle of last season.
“Some crazy things line up for me sometimes,” Samardzija said after throwing three innings against Oakland. “And when you come to a park you spent six years at and with a team you just got done playing with, it’s fun. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed my last calendar year with moving around and meeting a lot of different guys.”
Samardzija, who previously threw two innings of an intrasquad game last week, made his Sox debut in a 10-4 victory. –
Samardzija had only good things to say about Oakland, despite the club trading him after only five months. In fact, he came to appreciate the way the club’s front office does business.
“They have a budget to work with and they know what pieces they need and don’t need and they’re very fluid with their roster,” he said. “And you understand it when you’re over there, and I think when you’re there for a while, you appreciate it for what it is.”
Samardzija was one of several key acquisitions for the White Sox this offseason, brought in via trade for Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo.
The hard-throwing right-hander solidified a rotation that already featured Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Samardzija arguably gives the White Sox the strongest starting rotation in baseball.
And with 2015 being a contract year, the 30-year-old may be even more motivated to perform well.
“When you step back and look at your situation from afar, it’s a pretty intense situation with a lot on the line,” he said. “But you like to put more pressure on yourself than anything outside can put on you. I like to think what I demand of myself each time out is more pressure than what a contract or what situation my career is.”
Manager Robin Ventura echoed Samardzija’s comments on the subject and said he respects the way the pitcher “carries himself” as a competitor.
“When he pitches, there’s just a certain feel that’s out there partly because of his background of being able to play football and doing those things,” Ventura said. “He’s an athlete. He’s not just a pitcher.”
Samardzija said he originally planned to only throw two innings but instead became the first Sox pitcher to go three this spring.
He looked sharp for two before missing his spots a few times in a two-run third inning. He gave up doubles to Craig Gentry and Jason Pridie.
Samardzija fell behind in counts and worked deep into the count several times against the 11 batters he faced. He threw a sinker away to Ike Davis that resulted in a 6-4-3 double play, one of three groundouts he forced. He also had one strikeout.
He said he’s still trying to work his pitch count up and get all of his pitches into the mix.
“I think I had about five, six, seven pitches that were good executed pitches and just missed by a couple inches,” Samardzija said. “That’s where we’re at right now in camp, and we’ll get those couple inches back and get the ball on the plate and ahead in the count and that’s where we want to be. But it’s good to know where we’re at and what we need to change.”