'Ecstatic' Samardzija ready to contribute to new team
He will start in place of Mills and face Blue Jays for first time in career
OAKLAND -- Jeff Samardzija received a text from Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein on Friday evening. Soon enough, he was on the phone with his new boss, and A's general manager Billy Beane was asking if he would be able to start in Oakland on Sunday.
"Billy asked me how I felt," said Samardzija, moments after arriving at the Coliseum just past first pitch Saturday. "I was supposed to pitch today, so I'm a day past my due date to pitch. I'm chomping at the bit. I don't think there's any better way to get acclimated than to do it on the mound. It was a no-brainer for me, and I look forward to it."
Samardzija will be facing the Blue Jays for the first time in his career for his first start in green and gold, less than 48 hours after learning he and teammate Jason Hammel had been packaged in a monster deal to the A's, who rewarded the rebuilding Cubs with four young players in return, including top prospect Addison Russell.
Following months of trade rumors, the highly prized Samardzija wasn't so much shocked when told to pack his bags. He just didn't expect to be handed a one-way ticket to the Bay Area, where he frequented in college as an All-American wide receiver for Notre Dame.
"Oakland was a pleasant surprise," he said. "There had been so much talk about Toronto and a handful of other teams. Oakland kept it pretty close to the chest and then all of a sudden they strike. I got word, and I was ecstatic.
"I'm a big fan of the Bay Area here. I played at Stanford a handful of times, and obviously coming in, this is a team that's done plenty fine without me, and I'm looking to do my part and hopefully add to the depth of the pitching staff. There's still a lot of season left to be played, so a lot of work left to be done."
Samardzija was 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Cubs, who gave him an average of just 3.08 runs of support, the fourth lowest mark in the National League. The first-place A's, in contrast, lead the Majors in runs scored by a wide margin.
"I'm right where I need to be, man. I'm excited," he said. "I've been begging for this for a while, situation-wise, of coming in every day to win games as opposed to worrying which guys are going to be here or not be here."
Lefty Brad Mills was initially scheduled to make Sunday's start before the trade went down, but he was moved to the bullpen Saturday and could very well be taken off the roster Sunday to make room for Hammel, who is in line to pitch Wednesday in San Francisco.
Samardzija is slightly familiar with new teammate Josh Donaldson from their Minor League days in the Cubs system. But the 29-year-old righty, ever the outgoing type, should have no problem fitting into this loose A's clubhouse.
"My skills at meeting new people are pretty up there," Samardzija said, smiling. "I hope I can bring a sense of excitement to the team. You don't want to be a distraction. You want to be an addition. My goal is to come in and make a seamless transition in being a part of this team."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.