Jeff Samardzija knows this is a big year for him. The Cubs pitcher is out of minor-league options, but he has no guarantee of a job, either in the starting rotation or in the bullpen.
"I've kind of taken a different approach to it this year," said Samardzija, who turns 26 on Jan. 23. "You don't want to sound selfish or anything, but I've really, in the off-season, just taken care of what I can take care of. I'm sure the list is up to about seven or eight already, guys trying to start. The same song as it is every year."
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Samardzija had his best success at Class AAA Iowa last year, going 11-3 with a 4.37 ERA in 35 games, 15 starts, after being demoted in late April.
Since the end of the season, he has been working out in Arizona, and he says he's not worried about how things shake out in spring training.
"I really don't care, to tell you the truth," he said. "I'm very, very excited about how things are going right now, with me being down there since early November. I'm throwing off the mound already. It's kind of what I choose to leave it at."
Catcher Geovany Soto avoided salary arbitration by signing a one-year deal worth $3 million, according to sources. Soto made $575,000 last year, when he batted .280 with 17 homers in 105 games.
Right fielder Tyler Colvin said he has put back the weight he lost during last season, even before the frightening injury he suffered in September ended his 2010 season.
Colvin suffered a collapsed lung when he was hit by a piece of a broken bat in Florida. In 135 games, he had a hitting line of .254/.316/.500 with 20 homers.
"I'm back to where I was last year for spring training; I'm back to 210 (pounds)," said Colvin, who added bulk last off-season. "I tend to lose weight by the end of the season. I put on a lot, so hopefully I can lose a little bit and be strong at the end."
Colvin added that the injury will have no effect on his approach this year.
"I couldn't foresee that happening again," he said. "I'm not going to go out there and play scared. I'm just going to go out there and play like any other game."
Second baseman Jeff Baker said he's ready to man the leadoff spot whenever manager Mike Quade calls on him. Baker hit .350 against left-handed pitching last year, compared with .106 against righties.
"I got a little comfortable, a little taste of it last year," Baker said. "It would be good. Hopefully, I'll get on base for those guys. For whatever reason, I've hung in there pretty well against (lefties). I've got the majority of reps the last couple years against lefties."
This and that:
Special assistant Greg Maddux won't be at the convention as he tends to a family matter. ... Pitcher Ryan Dempster also is absent for family reasons.