CHICAGO -- Jeff Samardzija couldn't hide his excitement about pitching on Friday against the White Sox at Wrigley Field.
"I'm just excited -- I'm really excited, actually," Samardzija said Thursday. "I love pitching here in Chicago, and especially in front of both sets of fans. The place should be rocking, and it should be fun."
The Cubs open Interleague Play on Friday against their crosstown rivals, beginning the home-and-road six-game series at Wrigley. Samardzija will face Philip Humber in Game 1. The series is important to fans as far as bragging rights are concerned in the city. And the players?
"There are certain games on the calendar you look at and circle, and not for any other reason than you know it'll be exciting and there will be a buzz around the area and around Wrigley," Samardzija said. "I'm looking forward to pitching down there -- that's like pitching in my backyard at Comiskey, it's like 20 minutes from my house."
Of course, the White Sox home park now is known as U.S. Cellular Field, not Comiskey Park. But for Samardzija, who grew up in Valparaiso, Ind., it's close to his home.
Samardzija has been on a good roll. The Cubs are 6-1 in his seven starts, and he's compiled a 2.89 ERA in his first full season as a starter.
"I think [the season] is just going in the right direction with how I feel and how my pitches are coming out," he said. "Obviously, you need to get better every time out and I think I've been trying to improve and seeing how teams approach me at the plate. ... I was watching the White Sox, and they have some big bats in there and some guys I definitely have to be careful with, especially here, where it will be a nice day tomorrow and the wind blowing out a little bit."
Samardzija did listen to White Sox games on TV and enjoyed broadcaster Hawk Harrelson's unique calls.
"I always liked the ones where he didn't talk for about an inning and a half, and all of a sudden, he'd be, 'OK, the 2-2,'" Samardzija said. "Where did the other 15 pitches go?
"They're fun to watch and fun to listen to. You can always get a good nap in during a Sox game."
Let the crosstown series begin.