An early question emerging this season concerned Jeff Samardzija’s mindset after the Giants did not pitch him in the opening series, holding him for a weaker opponent. Additionally, the Giants will be hesitant to allow any pitcher to see a lineup for a third time, which Samardzija could take issue with.
In his first public comments, Samardzija said what the Giants wanted to hear. The next question, though, will concern whether his stuff will record outs.
Samardzija was not as bad as his statline suggests Tuesday night — five runs on five hits in four innings — as three of those runs were the result of a Fernando Tatis Jr. inside-out swing that somehow kept traveling and cleared the right-field wall. And yet, he also was not good, falling behind often and possessing a fastball that maxed out at 90 mph. Statcast credited the Padres with four hard-hit balls off of him, while the Giants had five hard-hit balls all game.
Samardzija, as was the problem in camp, was not missing bats, striking out just one and pitching to contact in an era when that can get pitchers into fast trouble. If Tatis’ homer was a bit fluky — Samardzija did not complain about it, rather focusing on the fact he had fallen behind in the count — Wil Myers’ two-run shot was a no-doubter.
“I think Wil’s was gone in a hurricane, so let’s just give him the credit on that one,” Samardzija said over Zoom after the 5-3 loss.
Despite the loss that drops the Giants to 2-3, and despite the early uncertainty over his role, Samardzija was upbeat, saying the Giants “put me in a good position to match up against a team I usually have a lot of success against.”
Samardzija is an old-fashioned workhorse, a type that might not exist in a 60-game season when every inning will have to maximized. He understands his role is changing, though.
“From eating up innings to throwing up zeroes,” said the 35-year-old, on the last year of his pact. “Every game is so important, where you don’t have the middle of summer where you gotta protect that bullpen.”
With the arms still being built up and with rosters that have 30 players instead of the 28 they’ll have soon, Samardzija anticipates a longer leash in the future — as do his rotation mates. The buy-in has been there, now will the results follow?
Gabe Kapler said after a nice start, he thought Samardzija couldn’t “maintain a rhythm.” And he’s not concerned about the velocity — but only because of where it was.
“I thought he actually had a pretty good fastball, especially relative to our modified camp,” Kapler said. “That wasn’t a concern tonight. The velocity was better than it has been.”
Brandon Crawford, whose swing tweaks so encouraged the Giants this offseason and during both camps, has begun 1-for-13. He is not alarmed, saying his timing, which was a bit off in exhibition games against the A’s, is OK. He thinks his luck will turn.
“The last few games I’ve actually felt really good and actually been hitting the ball hard,” Crawford said. “Just right at people for the most part.”
Kapler was asked if he anticipated making any changes against righty starting pitchers. The bats they have turned to, including Joe McCarthy’s, Mauricio Dubon’s and Jaylin Davis’, have not worked thus far.
“I think we’ll regroup and take a look at how our lineup performed tonight,” Kapler said. “Actually go back and look at our at-bats against right-handed pitching in the Dodger series and make the best decision for the club tomorrow.”