LOS ANGELES — When San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija was still at Notre Dame, his roommate — Dan Kapala — used to tell him about his high school games in Michigan. In order to get through two seven-inning games of a doubleheader before dark, batters would start with a 1-1 count.
On Monday, Samardzija started with 1-1 counts on Hunter Pence, as he threw a 30-pitch, two-inning simulated game before the Giants opened a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers as he works back from shoulder issues.
“It’s kind of weird,” Samardzija said. “I enjoyed it. I want to go up there and have the catcher calling pitches, go through the whole process, trying to get as close to game time as you can.”
Pence did get a hit — to the opposite field, on a cutter — but overall, the reviews of Samardzija’s session were good.
“Arm felt great,” Samardzija said in the San Francisco clubhouse. “Increasing my workload every time out, threw all the pitches, [got] up and down, warmed up, and now it’s just going to be about getting out there on the mound and repeating the delivery against live hitters and getting my pitch count up.”
Samardzija’s slider looked particularly good to manager Bruce Bochy, who described Samardzija as “free and easy” on the mound, something he said he wanted to see before the team left San Francisco on Sunday.
“I saw a pretty good session,” Bochy said. ” … He felt fine. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. That’s always the case, how he comes out of it, what the next move is … He threw some good sliders, breaking balls. He threw everything, and overall, it was a good session for him.Just watching him, that’s got to be the best he’s felt since probably before spring training.”
After a spring training right pectoral strain, Samardzija missed 18 games at the start of the season, and 35 more after he tried to return. He went down on July 14 when he had trouble staying loose in a start against Oakland, where he allowed two runs on three hits in four innings. He was placed on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness.
Samardzija threw a 20-pitch bullpen last week, and after Monday’s session, the next step would be to throw 45-50 pitches in either a simulated game or a rehab start. That will be determined on Tuesday, Bochy said.
“We’re going to talk about that,” Samardzija said. “We don’t really have anything set in stone. We’re thinking we could do that again, extend it a bit longer, or a rehab start somewhere … Everything’s been feeling good and positive, so we’re always trying to get more pitches in those rehab starts, but it’s getting harder and harder to squeak out an extra five or 10, but we’ll probably go around 45, 50, and get back on that five-day routine.”