SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija made one final spring-training tuneup start Wednesday, and he made it a good one.
Samardzija threw 50 pitches (34 strikes) over 3 innings in the Cubs' 14-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Next Monday, Samardzija is scheduled to make his second straight opening-day start for the Cubs, both times in Pittsburgh.
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"I felt really good," said Samardzija, who finished spring with a 5.14 ERA. "The last two times out have been really positive. You look at all fronts: arm strength, body strength, mechanics, location of pitches, and I'm checking off all the boxes. I feel good, and I'm ready to get going."
Samardzija walked none and struck out two as he gave up 4 hits and 1 run. He mixed his pitches well and said he was happy with the softer stuff.
"Yeah, absolutely, especially out here (in Arizona)," he said. "It's tough to really get that bite you want in the dry air. But I'm happy with how the slider has been. The splitter will get better as the season goes along, the more north you get. The cutter has been good, too."
Right-hander Jake Arrieta threw a 3-inning simulated game at Cubs Park in Mesa during the morning. Arrieta has been battling shoulder tightness all spring.
He was hoping to become the fifth starter in the rotation, but that spot is up in the air. Arrieta will throw a side session at Chase Field in Phoenix over the weekend as the Cubs finish spring training with a pair of exhibitions against the Diamondbacks. He'll then travel to Pittsburgh and perhaps throw another simulated game there.
There is no set timetable for Arrieta to be ready for the active roster.
"It was really good," he said of Wednesday's outing. "Progressively getting stronger and more and more comfortable every time out. It was a really good reminder of where I will be in the next couple of weeks. Health is good. Body is strong, so I was glad to get that up and down three times out of the way. Fifth-55 pitches is a good place to be right now."
Rusin roughed up:
One of the candidates for the fifth spot, lefty Chris Rusin, may have pitched himself out of the picture Wednesday. Coming on in relief of Jeff Samardzija, Rusin gave up 4 home runs and had a line of 2⅔ innings pitched with 10 hits and 9 runs. For the spring, he has an ERA of 7.45.
If Rusin gets sent down, it's a good bet veteran swingman Carlos Villanueva will open the season in the rotation for the second straight year. Villanueva worked in 47 games last year, 15 as a starter.