Notes: Samardzija caps off Cactus stint
Cubs trim roster by 14; Soriano getting hang of center field
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija appeared in his third game Monday, and, as Cubs manager Lou Piniella predicted, he got to face Barry Bonds.
It also turned out to be the right-hander's last Cactus League game, as he was one of 14 players cut.
Samardzija started the fifth inning of the Cubs' 10-5 win over the Giants and retired the first two batters. Omar Vizquel then singled, and Bonds took the first pitch, a ball, then slapped a single to right. Pedro Feliz also singled to load the bases, but Samardzija got Rich Aurilia to fly out to Alfonso Soriano in center to end the inning.
"It was cool," Samardzija said about facing Bonds. "I tried to keep cool and just make some pitches. I kept the sinker up a little bit, and he put the bat on it."
It was cool to face Bonds? Not many big-league pitchers feel that way.
"I got to face a lot of guys since I've been up here, a lot of guys I've watched for a long time," Samardzija said. "It's all thrilling. My job as a pitcher is to keep my emotions together on the mound. I'm a pretty emotional guy. I just took some deep breaths, made my pitches and what happens, happens."
"It was very entertaining," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said, "but I've been excited about this kid since the day we got him. He handled himself like a pro with a lot of poise. He's a big-time guy."
Samardzija struck out Bengie Molina and Randy Winn to open the sixth, then walked a batter and gave up a single before getting an inning-ending groundout. In two innings, the former Notre Dame wide receiver gave up four hits, one walk and and struck out two.
"He's pitched like a veteran really," Piniella said. "You could see that he's had big-time exposure playing football at Notre Dame. This hasn't fazed him too much. I think he's looked at some of our veteran pitchers and how they go about their business, what it takes to be a big leaguer, and he'll take that with him. I wouldn't be surprised that he'll have good, steady progress in the Minor League system."
As good as the young right-hander has looked, he needs to get some experience in the Minor Leagues and learn his trade, Piniella said. In the first round of roster cuts Monday, the Cubs trimmed the spring roster from 58 to 44. Infielder Scott Moore and left-handed pitcher Clay Rapada were optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Infielder Brian Dopirak was optioned to Double-A Tennessee, and Samardzija was optioned to Class A Daytona.
Ten non-roster invitees were returned to the Cubs' Minor League camp, including pitchers Jason Anderson, Sean Gallagher, Adam Harben, Ben Howard, John Webb and Randy Wells. Infielders Mike Kinkade and Eric Patterson as well as outfielders Tyler Colvin and Chris Walker also were returned to the Minor League camp.
"They all worked hard, and got a taste of what it's like to be around a Major League team," Piniella said. "Like I told them, 'Your time will come.' These are talented kids, and we thanked them for the way they handled themselves in camp and for their work ethic. They were great to work with."
"If you're not there watching the other guys and picking up stuff from what they're doing, you're missing the boat," Samardzija said. "I tried to emulate everyone else."
Samardzija has made quite a transition. Just think -- he was playing in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 3 for Notre Dame and less than three months later, he's facing Barry Bonds.
"It always goes fast," Samardzija said. "You have to sit back and enjoy it. It's definitely been a pretty insane three, four months. It's been a lot of fun, and hopefully I keep going, keep pitching and keep having a good time."
Roster moves: Sean Gallagher, one of 14 players who had to pack their gear and move down to Fitch Park and the Minor League camp, took the news that he was being re-assigned well.
"It's a win-win situation," said Gallagher, who appeared in four innings over three games this spring. "It's starting to get tough to get innings."
He'd heard that Piniella mentioned the right-hander as a candidate for the vacancy in the big-league team's rotation but also knew the reality of the situation.
"I was probably the biggest long shot," Gallagher said.
Still, he had the right attitude.
"I'll be back," said Gallagher, as he packed his bag at HoHoKam Park. "I'll be calling Wrigley Field home in a matter of time."
One player still in Cubs camp is outfielder Felix Pie.
"He's getting his at-bats every day," Piniella said. "The kids who we keep, they'll all get playing time, they'll all get at-bats. When it comes to the point where we know they're not going to play here or get at-bats, then we'll evaluate their situation. Right now, they're playing as much as the regulars.
"Pie has done well here in camp," he said. "He's a good-looking young kid who is getting better and better."
Center of attention: Soriano made his eighth start in center field on Monday and appears to be making the adjustment.
"The only thing I don't want to do is let it affect his hitting," Piniella said. "Outside of that, I think the rest will take care of itself. I think he likes the position. I think he's reasonably happy with his progress. I know our outfield coach [Mike Quade] is. We'll go from there."
Asked if Soriano reminded him of any other center fielder, Piniella paused.
"Let's hope he reminds me of Mike Cameron by the time the season is over, or Junior Griffey or Eric Davis," Piniella said. "I've had some real good center fielders. I think he has his own particular style. He's an athletic young man who likes to play. He's been getting better jumps on the ball, and we're still working on his routes. Do we expect him to win a Gold Glove his first year? No. But I think he'll do a nice professional job out there for us."
Feeling strong now: Not only was Ryan Dempster's outing on Sunday good because he retired the side in order -- and struck out the last two batters -- but he threw all strikes. No balls.
"You ain't seen nothing yet," Dempster said.
He was kidding. Seriously, though, it's nice to see the Cubs closer throwing strikes.
"It felt good, all my pitches were working," Dempster said. "I felt sharp. It was definitely a rare occurrence -- to throw an inning without throwing a ball. It was good work."
The good outings confirm that all the hard work this offseason paid off.
"You want to do as well as you can and get as much confidence as you can going into the season," Dempster said. "I feel like I worked hard all offseason, and I'm still working hard now. The reward is on the field. I can see results."
Extra bases: Cliff Floyd made his first start and appearance of the season Monday, starting in left field. He hit a two-run single in his first at-bat, and was 1-for-2 in the game with a walk. His game action was delayed because he was coming off surgery on his left foot. Hendry said he's the one who wanted Floyd to wait. "Veteran position players don't need more than a couple weeks to get going," Hendry said. The plan is for Floyd to play every other day, and take advantage of the DH in American League parks. ... Piniella said the rotation for the first four games will be Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and Rich Hill. "We'll decide on the fifth soon," Piniella said. ... Derrek Lee left Monday's game after two at-bats as a precautionary measure. He felt a twinge in his groin when he slid into second in the first inning, but stayed in the game for the second. ... Henry Blanco was noticeably limping after taking a foul ball off his right knee. His status is day-to-day. ... Hitting coach Gerald Perry has talked to the players about how many at-bats they will get this spring, and the plan is to try for at least 60. ... The name plate above Rocky Cherry's locker says "The Rocket." Cherry has three saves this spring, and has given up two hits over 5 1/3 scoreless innings while striking out nine. ... Michael Wuertz will throw in the Minor League camp on Tuesday, his first game appearance, and if all goes well, he'll pitch in his first Cactus League game Friday in Tucson against the White Sox. ... Daryle Ward and Mark DeRosa will likely miss the next two days because of the stomach flu. ... Wednesday is an off-day.
On deck: The Cubs travel south on Interstate 10 to Tucson to face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday at 3:05 p.m. CT. Wade Miller is slated to make his third start this spring as the competition continues for the open spot in the rotation. So far, Miller has given up two earned runs on eight hits over five innings while striking out four.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.