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Samardzija would rather win than earn No. 1 job

MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija is hoping he does enough to win the Opening Day assignment, but says a strong start for the team is more important.

Samardzija tuned up Friday, pitching three innings against the Diamondbacks at HoHoKam Stadium. He gave up one run on one hit and three walks. It wasn't his best outing -- he didn't have good command of his fastball and his split wasn't sharp -- but it was another step.

Last spring, Cubs manager Dale Sveum described the right-hander as a "man on a mission" to prove he could be a full-time starter. And now?

"It's the same but he's on a different voyage," Sveum said. "Last year was to prove he could start, and obviously he did that. Now his mission is to be one of the best starting pitchers in baseball."

Samardzija is hoping the Cubs have a better season. At last July's Trade Deadline, the Cubs dealt several veteran players when it was clear the team was no longer in contention.

"I feel like the beginning of this season could be as important as we'll have," Samardzija said. "Spring Training is really big for us, too, just getting this team together and realizing where we want our lineup to be and everything like that. It's very important, very, very important, especially with guys like [Matt] Garza and these different dudes who are about to be free agents.

"We need to show when they're on this team that we're a more capable team to win games and make the playoffs, and go from there," Samardzija said. "That's for us to prove on the field, and as long as we do that, then you can add pieces instead of taking them away, which is where you want to be."

He understands why the front office would make deals as they try to improve the farm system.

"If we're out of it, I doubt they'll keep the whole team together," Samardzija said. "That's not what our plan is. Our plan is to put them in a tough situation on what they want to do halfway through the year and through September and go from there. If we're doing our job and winning ballgames, they'll have a tough decision on what they want to do. That's our job as players on the field."

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