The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

March 31, 2013

Burnett, Samardzija ready for opener

PITTSBURGH — Jeff Samardzija can only hope his performance today matches his last opening game in Pittsburgh.

Samardzija will start for the Chicago Cubs and A.J. Burnett for the Pittsburgh Pirates today as two teams with long streaks of futility meet on opening day. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992.

After losing 101 games last season, the Cubs will look for Samardzija to get them off to a better start in the second year of the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer administration.

This will be the first opening-day start for Samardzija, who went 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA in 28 games last year in his first full season as a starting pitcher.

As a junior wide receiver at Notre Dame in 2005, Samardzija caught three passes for 34 yards and one touchdown to help the Fighting Irish beat Pitt, 42-21, in Charlie Weis’ first game as coach. Samardzija went on to become a consensus All-America that year.

“That was a big moment for me, scoring my first college touchdown, but football seems so long ago now,” Samardzija said. “I’m a baseball player.”

Though he likely would have been a high-round pick in the NFL draft, Samardzija opted to play professional baseball and has established himself with the Cubs in the past two seasons. He went 8-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 75 relief appearances in 2011 before making the conversion to the rotation.

“He was one of the bright spots for us last year,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He really did a great of moving into the rotation and being very consistent. He is one of the players we feel we can build around.”

Burnett will be making his first opening-day start of his 15-year career. He was the undisputed ace during his first season with the Pirates last year, going 16-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 31 starts after being acquired from the New York Yankees in a trade on the eve of spring training.

Burnett helped the Pirates stay in contention for a playoff spot into early September before they faded.

“I don’t know exactly what my emotions will be like because I’ve never pitched on opening day before, but I’m glad that it’s happening in Pittsburgh,” Burnett said. “I really love It here. Last year was the most fun I had in a long time. It’s a great group of guys to play with and the fans have treated me great.”

Burnett is considering retirement at the end of this season when the $82.5 million, five-year contract he signed with the Yankees expires. Burnett is 36 and his children are 12 and 9, so a more normal lifestyle is appealing.

However, Burnett has developed such an affinity for Pittsburgh that he would consider playing in 2014 if the Pirates are interested in having him back.

What Burnett would like to do is help the Pirates over the .500 mark. Their 20 consecutive losing seasons is the longest streak in major North American professional sports history.

Pittsburgh was 63-47 before play on Aug. 9 and finished 79-83.

“We flirted with .500 last year,” Burnett said. “It’s time for us to start winning. We’ve got a good enough team to do it. We need to get off to a good start, set a good tone early in the season, and go from there.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Hawks already building toward next season

    Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0416 Penguins rally to wear out Jackets

    Brandon Sutter scored on a wrist shot from the left circle 8:18 into the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rally for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
    Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh’s two-goal deficit.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

  • Reds swing way past Pirates

    Mike Leake doubled and hit a two-run homer Tuesday night, ending Gerrit Cole's winning streak and leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that completed two days full of homers and delays.
    First, the NL Central rivals completed a game that was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain the previous night.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pitt ends its spring practices

    No tailgating.
    No trip to a local high school.

    April 15, 2014

  • Pirates Game 1 0415 Pirates edge out Reds in suspended game

    After all those home runs and an overnight delay, it was settled by a single.
    Andrew McCutchen doubled and came around on Russell Martin’s single in the seventh inning on Tuesday, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates an 8-7 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the completion of a game that spanned two days and 10 home runs.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • track_B1 WestPAC relays go to Windber boys, Berlin girls

    Rain showers and dropping temperatures put a damper on Monday’s WestPAC Relays at Berlin Brothersvalley High School.
    For the Berlin girls and the boys from Windber, however, discomfort was not much of a factor.
    The Mountaineers won their third straight relay title while the Ramblers reclaimed the title from defending champ Shade.

    April 14, 2014 2 Photos