Samardzija, Phelps Grinding It Out

It’s hard to believe, but the Chicago Cubs enter May in last place in the National League Central Division with an 11-16 record. Most headlines concerning the club these days have to do with owner Tom Ricketts threatening to move the team out of Wrigley Field if items such as a 6,000-square-foot video board are not approved as part of a $500 million renovation to the league’s second-oldest park.

Jeff Samardzija was 1-4 with a 3.35 ERA and 47 strikeouts in six April starts for the Chicago Cubs.

Former Notre Dame two-sport star Jeff Samardzija is especially glad April has passed. Billed as the organization’s ace heading into the 2013 season after a breakout summer in 2012, Samardzija, a prolific wide receiver for the Fighting Irish, can’t seem to catch a break or get a boost from the Cubs’ bats.

Chicago is 26th in the majors in team batting average (.237) and is tied with Minnesota and Washington for the fourth-least runs scored (98) this year, doing little to help a pitching staff that has a combined 3.71 ERA (11th in MLB). The bullpen hasn’t been able to efficiently close out games, having blown six of 14 save opportunities so far this year.

The two starting pitchers expected to carry the rotation have the worst records through May 2. Edwin Jackson (33 innings), who posted a 35-30 record in three seasons in Detroit and a 10-11 mark last year in Washington, is off to an 0-4 start. Samardzija, who picked up his only win of the year against Pittsburgh on opening day, has dropped four straight.

He has pitched the most innings (37 2/3) on the team and has given up only 30 hits, 14 earned runs, three homers and 14 walks. His 47 strikeouts in April were tied with Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers for third in the big leagues. Only Yu Darvish (Texas) and A.J. Burnett (Pittsburgh) had more with 58 and 48, respectively.

“We’re right there,” Samardzija told reporters at the end of April. “We need to stay positive [and] finish this month strong and go into May with our heads high and really be ready to make a run into the summer.”

Phelps Gets Another Shot
Notre Dame alumnus David Phelps posted a 2.71 ERA in 42 1/3 innings of relief for the New York Yankees in 2012 after registering a 2-2 record with a 3.77 ERA in 11 starts.

His first starting opportunity of 2013 came Wednesday in a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros in New York, bumping the Yanks up to 17-10 on the season. The opening came via Ivan Nova’s move to the disabled list.

“It’s a good opportunity for him to get in the rotation,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters before the game.

The 26-year-old right-hander shut out the Astros in the first three innings before a four-run fourth tied the game at 4-4. He allowed those four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m a little frustrated with today,'” said Phelps, who has a 5.56 ERA this year. “I felt like I could have really grabbed the reins and just taken care of things.”

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