Rewind: A's hand ball, momentum to Samardzija

Rewind: A's hand ball, momentum to Samardzija
July 5, 2014, 10:30 pm
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When I got word that they were seriously in play, I was ecstatic. Big fan of the Bay Area, I love it out here.
Jeff Samardzija

OAKLAND -- Jeff Samardzija set school records as a wide receiver playing football at Notre Dame, but the A's newly acquired starting pitcher has worked diligently to make that part of his athletic history just that -- history.

"Not only a great arm," manager Bob Melvin said, "but from what I understand, quite the competitor. He has that football mentality."

The only time a "baseball mentality" would help on a football field, Samardzija says, is when the kicker is staring down a 50-yard field goal with the game on the line.

"Other than that, you're pretty much out there raging and trying to hit some skulls."

"It's a different mentality," he said. "It's a mentality I've been battling with my whole baseball career, trying to keep it subdued. It's gone well over the past few years as a starter, I've been able to get into a good routine and really learn myself, and what I need to do."

Since he became a full-time starter for the Cubs in 2012, Samardzija has posted a 3.83 ERA with 497 strikeouts to 165 walks. His 19-33 record belies how effective he's been.

"He's going to be a bulldog, that goes without saying," Stephen Vogt said.

After watching the A's take a 5-1 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday, Samardzija can't wait to make his debut in Green and Gold on Sunday.

[RECAP: Kazmir, A's take down Blue Jays 5-1]

"I was supposed to pitch (Saturday), so I'm a day past my due date," he said. "I'm champing at the bit to go out there.

"I don't think theres any better way to get acclimated with your teammates than to do it on the mound."

Samardzija started the acclimation on Saturday, watching Scott Kazmir surgically pick apart a dangerous Blue Jays lineup, Josh Donaldson run full speed into the tarp to make a play and a lineup that threatened nearly every inning.

Kazmir acknowledged he "had a little bit of jitters going" in the first inning, but he settled down in time to put on quite a show -- eight strikeouts and three hits in seven innings -- for his new teammate, who he met for the first time in the dugout.

For Samardzija, joining the A's was a pleasant surprise before he saw first-hand what they are capable of doing.

"When I got word that they were seriously in play, I was ecstatic," he said. "Big fan of the Bay Area, I love it out here."

[RELATED: Melvin, players react to Samardzija, Hammel trade]

From 12.5 games back and in last place to 3.5 games up in first place, and with the chance to pitch in meaningful games down the stretch in a pitcher's ballpark, Samardzija's appreciation is understandable.

The trade cements the A's as favorites to win the AL West, but with 75 games still to play, there is plenty or work to do.

"Enough guys are here from 2012 that know no lead is safe," closer Sean Doolittle said. "And it’s not over until you're in the clubhouse popping bottles and spraying each other with champagne."

Samardzija knows it.

"I've been begging for this (situation) for awhile," he said.

After a whirlwind day that sent him from DC to Oakland and turned his life upside down, Samardzija made one thing clear upon arriving in Oakland: He's got an A's mentality.

"Looked like he enjoyed himself," Melvin said of Samardzija after the game, describing his new starter's big smile and affinity for the A's patented white cleats. "It looked like he belonged."