Wood's injury woes benefit Samardzija

 
 
Published: 8/9/2008 11:52 PM

If Kerry Wood's health issues persist it could only serve to increase rookie right-hander Jeff Samardzija's role out of the bullpen.

With Wood not available Friday because of a tight back, Cubs manager Lou Piniella used Samardzija in the ninth and 10th innings of a game of importance against the Cardinals.

"I think that tells you something," Piniella said Saturday. "It tells me that I like him and I have confidence in him."

Samardzija's poise and powerful arm have impressed Piniella, who can see the former Notre Dame football star enjoys pressure situations.

"Obviously, playing in front of 80,000 people at Notre Dame makes a big difference," Piniella said. "He's used to national TV and exposure, the Notre Dame program, the schedule they play in front of the fans they play before at home and on the road. It doesn't faze him when he comes here. It's one of the reasons, outside of the fact that he's a success-oriented young man and at the same time he has good stuff to go along with it, that he's been able to make this transition in Chicago so rapidly."

Samardzija looks forward to getting into pressure of a pennant race.

"It's fun to be out there in those situations," Samardzija said. "It's exciting."

If Samardzija is a future closer or starter, Piniella doesn't know.

"It depends on the organization's need," Piniella said. "I think he can go both ways."

Man in the middle: With Kerry Wood saying he is OK to pitch after missing Friday with back tightness, Lou Piniella said the plan still is to use him in non-closing situations.

"He's only pitched one time in a month," Piniella said. "We have to get him some work and the best way to get him strong, get his arm strength up and get him back in pitching shape is to get him some work in the middle."

To the bench: Slumping right fielder Kosuke Fukudome was pulled from Saturday's game in the fifth inning on a double switch when Lou Piniella changed pitchers. Fukudome was 0-for-2 with two ground balls to second, making him 3-for-24 on the homestand. Fukudome's average has dipped to .272.