Soler, Castro, Coghlan and Rizzo go deep in battle with Samardzija
By Scott Merkin and Carrie Muskat
MESA, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija got a rude welcome by his former teammates on Friday.
Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan each belted two-run homers, and Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro added solo shots to power the Cubs to a 6-3 victory over the White Sox and their former teammate at Sloan Park. Samardzija, who struck out nine, was the Cubs' Opening Day starter last year, and he will begin this season for the White Sox.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Soler power:Most of the attention this spring has focused on Kris Bryant's home runs, but Cubs right fielder Soler is flexing his power, too. His two-run shot in the first inning was his third spring home run. Soler has reached safely in 12 of his 14 games, and he ranks second on the team with nine RBIs.
Not digging the long ball: Samardzija is getting his work in and building up arm strength during each Cactus League outing. But the White Sox Opening Day starter is also having a little trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark. With homers from Soler, Rizzo, Coghlan and Castro on Friday, Samardzija has yielded seven over his last two starts and eight overall this spring.
Stating his case: Little doubt has been left as to who will take the last position-player spot on the White Sox roster. That job belongs to J.B. Shuck, who added a double, single and a stolen base to his Cactus League resume on Friday.
Penmanship: The Cubs have some decisions to make regarding the bullpen, but one pitcher who has solidified a spot is Pedro Strop. The right-hander fanned two on Friday and has struck out 13 over seven innings this spring, walking two. Strop could sub as a closer if Hector Rondon needs a breather.
"This truly is a rivalry. I've been in places where they try to manufacture rivalries, and you can't manufacture a rivalry -- it either is or is not, and this one is." -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon on the Cubs and White Sox. The two teams will meet again in Interleague series on July 10-12 and Aug. 14-16.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Now batting: Friday was the fourth spring game in which Maddon has inserted the pitcher in the eighth spot in the lineup rather than ninth, and the second time for Hammel. The last Cubs pitcher to bat eighth in a regular-season game was Samardzija on Sept. 8, 2012, under manager Dale Sveum.
Welcome: Friday's game at Sloan Park drew a sold-out crowd of 15,342, a Spring Training single-game record. The previous mark was 15,331, set March 6 against the Reds at Sloan Park.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs up next: The Cubs will play two on Saturday with split-squad games against the Rockies and the Reds. Jake Arrieta will start at Sloan Park in Mesa against the Rockies in a Gameday Audio broadcast, while Gonzalez Germen gets the assignment in Goodyear against the Reds, whose starter is listed as closer Aroldis Chapman. That could be interesting. Both games start at 3:05 p.m. CT.
White Sox up next:Jose Quintana gets the call for the White Sox on Saturday at Camelback Ranch against the A's, with a 3:05 p.m. CT first pitch scheduled on MLB.TV. Quintana, who will be followed by Zach Putnam, has a 3.45 ERA in five spring starts.