CHICAGO -- One of the bright spots in the Cubs' rough season has been the successful conversion of righty Jeff Samardzija from a hard-throwing reliever into a full-service starting pitcher. Samardzija -- who went seven solid innings in Friday's 5-3 win over the Rockies -- leads the Cubs in innings and strikeouts, ranking 12th in the National League in the latter category.
Samardzija's 151 2/3 innings mark a career high during his seven seasons as a professional. He threw 141 2/3 innings in 2007, his first full season in the Minors. His total of 88 innings last season was easily the most in his time in the Majors.
With the Cubs out of contention, there have been whispers that the club might shut Samardzija down at some point. It could happen, but manager Dale Sveum says the former college football star appears to be strong enough to finish out the season.
"He's fine," Sveum said before Friday's game. "We'll make those decisions, but right now -- like I said a week ago -- all of his tests came back with flying colors. Right now, we're on the thought of making it all the way through."
The test Sveum referred to is part of a system of routine exams the Cubs require all of their pitchers to undergo periodically.
"It's a big shoulder test more than anything," Sveum said. "You do it in Spring Training and you follow up to see the strength level. Has it gotten weaker? Has it gotten stronger? [Samardzija's] actually even got stronger since Spring Training."
Samardzija has remained solid, posting a 2.83 ERA in his past nine starts previous to Friday. According to Sveum, it's a product of Samardzija's solid training regimen.
"His work ethic," Sveum said. "You just don't throw that many pitches and innings and get stronger unless you've been doing a lot of work on the side to prevent any injuries and to keep that part of your arm as strong as possible."