SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija made a strong opening bid for a spot in the Cubs rotation.
He allowed one hit in three scoreless innings Wednesday, and the Chicago Cubs defeated the Kansas City Royals 6-4.Cubs manager Dale Sveum says Samardzija appears to be on a mission."He's 100 percent correct," said Samardzija, a standout receiver at Notre Dame who chose baseball over the NFL. "I hold a lot of stuff in. I don't say too much stuff. I have a big chip on my shoulder, especially the older I get and slowly see my football skills diminishing. You've got to understand I've got to start pitching good."Samardzija, who has made only five starts in the majors, is trying to earn one of two vacancies in the Cubs' rotation after going 8-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 75 relief appearances last year.He had some ugly ERAs during brief appearances in the majors in 2009 and 2010 before a breakthrough 2011, when he went 8-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 75 relief appearances."That topic has been a roller coaster," he said. "There are times I don't mind it at all. There are times it really cuts to me. I feel like I made that decision based on the right reason, from my heart that's what I wanted to do was play baseball. I never felt I had to defend myself. The truth is you've got to prove to them that it's the right reason and that's what I'm trying to do."I'm trying to be the Cubs pitcher and not the former Notre Dame football player."Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, acquired by the Royals from San Francisco in an offseason trade, got little help from his fielders.The Cubs took advantage of three errors, two by third baseman Mike Moustakas, to score four runs in the first off Sanchez. The inning included RBI singles by Bryan LaHair, Jae-Hoon Ha and Darwin Barney."When you get four runs in the first inning as a pitcher you can kind of take a deep breath and go from there. It makes your job a whole lot easier," Samardzija said.Sanchez, who was obtained in a trade with San Francisco for the Royals big offseason acquisition, threw 31 pitches in the first inning in his spring training debut. He allowed four runs, three earned, on four singles. Sanchez was limited to 19 starts last season with a severe ankle sprain and left biceps tendinitis."I'm healthy. I hope I'm going to have a pretty good year," Sanchez said. "It was my first time out there in seven months. It was kind of different. I was throwing all my pitches, a lot of fastballs. I wasn't sharp. I was throwing my fastball down in the zone. Something positive was I threw one split(-finger fastball) and it worked."Eric Hosmer and Yuniesky Betancourt had run-producing doubles for the Royals, while Max Ramirez drove in two runs with a ninth inning single.The Cubs had 15 hits. Starlin Castro, Reed Johnson and LaHair each contributed two hits.
Cubs C Geovany Soto, who has been out with a groin strain, is expected to play this weekend. Non-roster C Jason Jaramillo has been held out of games with leg problems. . Actor Rob Riggle, who grew up in Kansas City, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.