Cubs to use Samardzija only as reliever

Cubs to use Samardzija only as reliever

MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija is in contention for a spot in the Cubs bullpen, but not one of the vacancies in the rotation.

The right-hander was used strictly as a reliever when first called up to the big leagues in 2008, but he has bounced back and forth between starting and relieving the last two seasons. He will not get a start this spring, manager Mike Quade said Saturday.

"I think the competition for those spots at the back end [of the rotation] is plenty big enough," Quade said. "Looking at the bullpen and looking at the people we removed from the bullpen to look at stretching out, that, to me, would be counter productive [to have Samardzija start]. Never say never, but that right now is not in our plans."

The Cubs are stretching out Andrew Cashner and James Russell this spring to see if they would be better for the rotation. Cashner made his first spring start on Saturday against the Padres.

The Cubs wanted Samardzija, 26, to start in the Minor Leagues to work on developing his pitches. Last year, he was 11-3 with a 4.37 ERA in 35 games at Triple-A Iowa, including 15 starts. The other factor with Samardzija is that he is out of options, which means the Cubs need to find a place for him that works.

"As development continues, you find out what a guy is," Quade said. "So Samardzija has had plenty of innings where he's been stretched out, starting in Triple-A. ... Right now, [Samardzija] is of the mindset that he's a bullpen guy, which is good, and I'd like to keep him in that mindset."