Jeff Samardzija looked around at what six months ago would have been unsettling and bizarre.
He sat in the Giants’ dugout minutes before his start and breathed in a gorgeous night at Oracle Park without a cloud in the sky or a fan in the stands. The cardboard cutouts were polite, the hum of the piped-in noise ever-present. For likely his final time as a Giant, he took stock of five years coming to an end, even if human bodies could not return his farewells.
“Sitting there was definitely a little emotional,” Samardzija said after the Giants’ 6-5 loss to the Padres in the nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader. “You take for granted all those times before you’ve done it. It’s like you’re always going to be there, always going to have an opportunity.
“But I think we all know that time goes by real fast.”
Samardzija, whose $90 million pact with San Francisco will expire, had his moments with the Giants and helped them to the 2016 postseason but had more injuries. This year he dealt with both injury and ineffectiveness, struggling in three early appearances before hitting the injured list with a shoulder impingement that sidelined him for about seven weeks.
Or, mostly sidelined him for seven weeks. He was not returned to the rotation when he was ready because the Giants did not have a spot for him. He knew there was a chance he would not get this chance to pitch one more time in the orange and black. While he did not lead the Giants to a win, he ate up three innings while allowing three runs — a two-run moon shot from Fernando Tatis Jr. the crusher — for a team that needed any innings it could get.
He’s always been a workhorse, and he wanted to help save the bullpen one more time. His stuff was better, maxing out at 93.8 mph, even if the swing-and-miss ability wasn’t there for the 35-year-old.
He will be back next year, at least in the major leagues. He said “100 percent” he plans on continuing his career and hopes to find a spot like he found in San Francisco.
“It’s always an honor to play for the Giants,” said Samardzija, who will enter an uncertain free-agent market off a poor, shortened season and one in which MLB clubs lost money. “… From the ownership, the way they treated me from the beginning. Obviously with [Bruce] Bochy and those guys, it’s a dream come true. Can’t ask for anything other than that and that’s what I’ll look for, that type of situation. It’s nice to be liked, to be loved and appreciated, and [they] know we’re working our butts off out there, and know what you get. I’m willing to give it all.”
He always has been, leading the league in innings in 2017, fighting his way to get a chance to help a ballclub he’s really only watched from afar. He thanked everyone, especially the training staff, that allowed him to say a goodbye that is not official. The Giants have more baseball to play and perhaps a postseason, though Samardzija isn’t likely to be included. His likely last act was chewing up a few more innings for a team that needed it.
“It was just an honor to go out there and just show my respect to the other players on this team that I’ve been watching,” Samardzija said. “I’m very much appreciative of everything.”