PITTSBURGH - Just when you thought the Cubs couldn't get any younger or less equipped to prevent a franchise record for losing, the team shuts down the best pitcher in the rotation.
Jeff Samardzija, whose 165 2/3 innings already far exceeds his professional season high, makes his final start of the season Saturday in Pittsburgh, the team announced Friday -- keeping to a plan outlined before the season started for limiting his workload during this first season as a big-league starter.
Samardzija, who seemed to get stronger through August and into September, didn't like getting the news, but ``I don't think I had very many options,'' he said.
``It's unfortunate. I really, really would have liked to finish the season pitching the whole time, and that way I could look back and really see how I went from beginning to end. But I've given everything I've had every start, and you have to respect what they're planning on doing, and what their plans are for the organization and the team.
``I put a lot of faith in [manager Dale Sveum] and [pitching coach Chris] Bosio that this is the right move for the right reasons.''
Samardzija is 8-13 and leads the staff with a 3.91 ERA in 27 starts - 3-6, 2.64 in 12 starts since a rough June.
``He really did everything we imagined and even more, actually,'' Sveum said. ``We all witnessed the gradual climb he made and the adjustments he had to make, and he did it all. Obviously he didn't go backwards; he got stronger. ...
``We want that guy to be our one or two guy ... going forward. We want him to be able to be healthy, strong and be able to pitch into October.''
Sveum said Samardzija will get consideration for the Opening Day start next year, depending on what pitchers are added to the staff over the winter.
Meanwhile, right-hander Jason Berken, who was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, will start in Samardzija's place the final three times through the rotation.
Already in a pitching and hitting funk that has the Cubs on pace for 102 losses, they look like an even stronger threat to break the franchise record of 103 losses in a season - considering a rotation the final 23 games of the season made up entirely of guys who've spent significant time in the minors this season.
Those five: Chris Volstad, Travis Wood, Chris Rusin, Justin Germano and Berken.