When Samardzija takes the mound against the Pirates, it will be his team-leading 28th start. He already has 165 2/3 innings, which is nearly as many as he had in the big leagues coming into the year (169 2/3) and double what he threw last season as a reliever (88). There's nothing wrong and Samardzija is healthy, but the team is looking to next year.
"It's unfortunate," Samardzija said Friday. "I really would've liked to finish the season, and that way I could look back and see how I went from beginning to end. You have to respect what they're planning on doing and what their plans are for the organization and the team. I talked to Dale [Sveum, manager] about it, and I put a lot of my faith in him, and in [pitching coach Chris] Bosio, too, that this is the right move for the right reasons."
Samardzija, 27, got a head start on the other Cubs pitchers by throwing before Spring Training began. Those innings, plus the 24 he had in Cactus League play, will put him at 200 in his first season as a starter.
"We all witnessed the gradual climb he made and the adjustments he had to make, and he did it all," Sveum said. "He got stronger than we expected. He, obviously, didn't go backwards. He had the second-half numbers to prove that, and going into the seventh inning pretty much every time out.
"He did everything we imagined, and even more," Sveum said.
Samardzija has 16 quality starts, and after going 6-8 with a 4.71 ERA before the All-Star break, he is 2-5 with a 2.66 ERA since.
The right-hander is very competitive -- after all, he was an All-American wide receiver at Notre Dame -- but Sveum said he took the news fairly well.
"When you put it to him with all the extra work he put in to becoming a starter, and all the throws he made before Spring Training to prepare, it even made sense to him in a way," Sveum said. "You can't blame him -- we want that guy to be our [No. 1 or 2] guy when everything is fixed here. We want him to be healthy, strong and able to pitch in October."
"It's going to be tough watching," Samardzija said. "It's not something I'm accustomed to. I'm used to playing, and I'm used to playing all the time."
Not only could Samardzija be one of the Cubs' top starters, he could be on the mound for Opening Day 2013.
"Obviously, we have to see what we have going into next season," Sveum said. "Right now, for what we have on our roster now, you'd have to figure him to be a candidate for the No. 1 spot, no question about it."
"That would mean a lot," Samardzija said. "It's already meant a lot this year from where I've come in Spring Training."
It's tough to be shut down when he's feeling healthy and strong.
"That makes it hard, but it also makes it hard leaving your team," Samardzija said. "I'm not leaving the team, but when you're in a tough spot, you need everybody to step up and do their part. I want to be out there pitching every fifth day, and you want to end the season with a full season."
Samardzija will spend the final weeks evaluating what he did and determining the best offseason program, as well as helping the young pitchers go over their game plans. Samardzija most likely won't be throwing as many innings before Spring Training, but he does plan on getting a head start. And next year, there will be no restrictions.
"I'll believe that right now, and that's why we're doing this year," Samardzija said. "If we want to win games, hopefully, they want me to do that, and pitch every fifth day with no extra rest."