Samardzija has 'great day' despite homers

Giants right-hander encouraged by improved splitter in six-inning start

Samardzija has 'great day' despite homers

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jeff Samardzija delivered a performance that was both encouraging and ominous Monday in the Giants' 6-4 exhibition loss to the Oakland A's.

Samardzija's pitching line revealed unwanted symmetry. He pitched six innings, surrendered six runs and allowed six hits, including two-run homers by Matt Chapman in the fifth inning and Chris Coghlan in the sixth. The right-hander's ERA rests at 8.53 after five spring starts.

But Samardzija, San Francisco's projected No. 3 starter who signed a five-year, $90 million contract, also demonstrated promise. He became the first Giants starter to work as many as six innings in a Cactus League game. He walked none and improved his technique with his split-fingered fastball, which is essential to his success.

"The splitter was great today, man," he said. "We've been fishing for it the first few starts. To get a handful of swings and misses on it, get a punchout on it (Khris Davis in the fourth inning), I think we got a couple of easy ground balls on it, that's huge for me. That's a change-of-pace pitch that makes them kind of get off my fastball a little bit."

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Samardzija, who shared the American League lead by giving up 29 homers last year as a member of the Chicago White Sox, downplayed the homers he yielded.

"It's Spring Training, man," he said. "I feel good, man. That was a great day out there. The ball was down. Everything was where we wanted."

Samardzija acknowledged that he dangled the pitches that Chapman and Coghlan hammered, but added, "You look at it as a whole, and that's exactly what we wanted out there."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy agreed, calling Samardzija "real close" to full effectiveness.

"I think he threw a little better than what the numbers showed," Bochy said.

Angel Pagan continued to show that he's adjusting to left field, dashing toward center to make a diving catch on Billy Burns' third-inning sacrifice fly.

Pagan's great catch

Buster Posey, the perennial All-Star catcher who has started at least 29 games at first base in five of his six Major League seasons, made his initial Cactus League start at first.

"There are always a few butterflies the first time out there," Posey said. "But I got one ground ball and got to pick a ball, so that was good."

Posey also made a high toss to Samardzija as the right-hander covered first base on a fourth-inning play. It forced the 6-foot-5 pitcher to extend himself to snare the ball.

"I made him use his athleticism a little bit," Posey said, referring to Samardzija's background as an All-America wide receiver at Notre Dame.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.