OAKLAND – Jeff Samardzija’s first day on the job with his new team really couldn’t have gone much better.
The A’s liked what they saw from their new right-hander. Samardzija sure likes what he sees from the A’s. The result Sunday was a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays that completed a four-game sweep and made Samardzija a winner in his Oakland debut.
Following a whirlwind day of travel Saturday after he and fellow right-hander Jason Hammel were acquired from the Chicago Cubs, Samardzija threw seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits. The A’s came through with some timely offense to support him, and Samardzija eventually left to a standing ovation from a Coliseum crowd of 22,897 after striking out the side in the seventh.
Samardzija (1-0) said he simply wants to fit in with a team that to this point has rolled to a 55-33 record, best in the majors.
“You don’t want to mess it up,” he said. “Like I said yesterday, they didn’t need me here. They were doing just fine without me. I don’t want to come in and change anything and change the atmosphere. I just want to come in and add and do my part.”
Samardzija’s enthusiam is evident on the mound, even in his delivery. He has an exaggerated follow-through where his back leg swings around to the point that he nearly turns himself in a full circle after some pitches. He pointed at his teammates after nice defensive plays behind him. After he rang up Juan Francisco looking on his final hitter, he pumped his fist and yelled to himself as he sprung off the mound.
A’s manager Bob Melvin was surprised to see Samardzija arrive at the Coliseum on Sunday morning at about 8:30, at least two hours before a pitcher would normally show when starting a day game.
“I’m used to getting to the field and having to hit and take batting practice,” said Samardzija, who spent seven years in the National League. “I’ll have to adjust my clock a little bit and understand I don’t have to do that any more. I just wanted to give myself as much time to be here and meet everybody, just be as comfortable as possible for the game.”
It was quite the bounce-back weekend for his new team. The A’s took four games from a club that came in leading the American League East and had swept them in Toronto back in May. It also erased the bitter taste of a three-game road sweep at the hands of Detroit leading into this series.
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Samardzija did well to get an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play in the first. By the time he took the mound in the fifth, he had a 3-0 lead to work with. His fastball sat in the mid-90’s range, and he topped out at 97 mph. He mixed in a backdoor slider against lefties and showed a nasty split that dove out of the strike zone, the pitch he got most of his strikeouts on.
“I tell you, he definitely has a presence out there,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “Big guy, big shoulders out there. He definitely has one of those imposing presences on the mound, and he has the stuff to go along with it.”
Samardzija said he shook off just one pitch all day, his 108th and final offering, on which catcher Derek Norris wanted Samardzija to throw a fastball and the pitcher opted for a breaking ball. He said he liked Norris’ mentality in wanting to go with the heat though.
Samardzija said the book on his personality “always was that I was a little too cocky and a little too emotional. And I look around the locker room, and I thought, ‘Hey, these guys fit me perfectly.’ They pull for their teammates, they care. You can see that.”
Notes: Hammel is due to join the A’s on Monday and is expected to make his first start Wednesday night at AT&T Park against the Giants. … First baseman Brandon Moss’ MRI on his sprained left ankle came back “clean,” according to Melvin, meaning no structural damage. His availability for Monday’s series opener against the Giants at the Coliseum is unknown.