It turns out now-former Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel was right in being irritated about being yanked from Friday's start. So says Cubs president Theo Epstein.
Hammel, whom the Cubs traded along with Jeff Samardzija to Oakland on Friday night, was lifted after 6-plus innings and 92 pitches in Friday's 7-2 victory at Washington.
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"All I can say it's frustrating, especially when you feel good," Hammel told reporters after the game.
Epstein traded Hammel and Samardzija for prospects and said the deal was not completed until after Hammel's final start as a Cub.
"I called Jason after the game and I left him a voice mail," Epstein said Saturday. "What I told him was, 'Jason, you're 100 percent right.' Ninety-two pitches is not fair. It's overly conservative, and we don't believe in strict pitch counts like that.
"I also told him, 'There's a reason you came out after 92 pitches and that's that we're close to a deal and we asked Ricky (manager Renteria) to be smart.'
"He totally understood it, and I don't blame him one bit for voicing his opinion. That would be overly conservative for a guy that's pitching well to be taken out at that point in the game. It's one of those things you can't talk about before the game or before the trade comes to fruition. No hard feelings either way."
Hammel finished his Cubs career with a record of 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA.
So close but far away:
Jeff Samardzija was the ace of the Cubs' pitching staff before being traded to Oakland. He was drafted by the Cubs on the fifth round in 2006.
The Athletics have Samardzija under their control until the end of the 2015 season if they don't trade him sometime next season. There was talk on and off that the Cubs and Samardzija could come to terms on a long-term deal.
Theo Epstein was asked Saturday if things ever got close.
"Looking back at it, I feel like it's fair to say we were close just because there was mutual interest," Epstein said. "We've always admired Jeff, the way he goes about his business, his work ethic, the way he is in that clubhouse, his competitiveness.
"We saw him as someone we possibly saw starting playoff games for us in Wrigley Field. I think Jeff loved the Cubs and loved the fans and the city and wanted to be here.
"In the end, that mutual interest just wasn't enough. I don't blame that on anyone. I don't think the timing wasn't necessarily aligned. We missed timing by a year or two. It's no one's fault.
"There are no hard feelings. We wish Jeff well. We're proud of what he accomplished here, and we hope that he goes and gets a ring."