By Paul Sullivan Chicago Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS — The biggest mystery surrounding today’s All-Star Game is where A’s pitcher Jeff Samardzija will wind up.
Should Samardzija sit in the National League dugout with the players who voted him to their team as a Cub, or take a seat in the American League dugout with his six A’s teammates?
“I think he’s going just stand in the middle of the field and just be awkward,” A’s catcher Derek Norris predicted.
While the Midsummer Classic figures to be Derek Jeter’s night, a player who definitely won’t participate was one of the most in demand for interviews Monday.
“Kind of a crazy ordeal,” A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson said.
Samardzija said he doesn’t want it to be “a big deal,” but it already is. He was asked several times Monday what jersey he’ll wear, and replied “a blank one” most of the time.
“It’s not really unique,” Samardzija said. “It’s just the way things happened. The timing (of the trade from the Cubs to the A’s) is unfortunate, but I’m really excited to get to experience two teams.
“I get to work out with the National League team and thank those guys for bringing me here and speaking up and saying I belong here. … And then during the game I get to go be part of the AL and see that side of things and meet those guys I’ll be facing in the near future.”
In 2004, Carlos Beltran wasn’t voted in for the American League as a member of the Royals, but MLB allowed Beltran to be named to the NL team as an injury replacement after he was traded to the Astros. Beltran went 1-for-2 off the bench, scoring a run.
But since Samardzija was voted to the NL team, MLB decided he can’t play for either team.
“I feel like he should be allowed to pitch in the game,” Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer said. “I understand that he was elected on the National League side and now he’s on the American League side. It’s such a ‘what do you do’ type of situation.”
Samardzija found out about his sticky situation from players’ union head Tony Clark, who sent him a long text about his status as a non-pitcher.
“He was explaining that it had never happened before (to a player voted in), so we’re kind of setting a precedent if anything happens in the future like this,” Samardzija said. “Ultimately he was relaying to me that he just wanted me to enjoy the festivities and soak in the atmosphere, and anything after that was gravy. I agree 100 percent, man. … I don’t have to pitch, so my anxiety level is at an all-time low.”
Samardzija couldn’t be happier being with the A’s, a team full of free spirits with which he’ll fit like a glove. He said he has never been around guys that talked so much baseball, though he didn’t reveal what the Cubs talked about.
Asked about leaving the Cubs, the hometown team he once had a no-trade contract with, Samardzija said he didn’t feel any sadness.
“There was no time for emotions, no time for reflections or anything,” Samardzija said. “When you get traded over to a team that’s in first place, you’re obligated to give all your time and attention to that team. So I’m not going to sit and reminisce.
“I’ll save that for later. … I’m excited to be on the team I’m on. They went out of their way to come get me, and I’m going to live up to all the expectations that they have for me.”