FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2016, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks throws during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, in Milwaukee. The righty began the season as the No. 5 starter for the Cubs. Now he gets the ball i
Morry Gash, File
October 07, 2016

CHICAGO (AP) Jeff Samardzija has started plenty of games at Wrigley Field - just not in the playoffs. That's about to change.

He will make his first postseason start in the same place he began his major league career when his San Francisco Giants play the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of the NL Division Series on Saturday night.

Samardzija was drafted by the Cubs in 2006 and spent his first 6 1/2 seasons with the team before he was traded to Oakland in the 2014 deal that brought shortstop Addison Russell to the Cubs.

''Obviously, everything's a little different when you pitched in one place for so long and then have to go do it on the other side,'' he said. ''But really not worried about that too much. I'm just excited that I'm getting an opportunity to pitch in a playoff game, which for me they have been few and far between with going in 2008 and then going briefly in 2014. For me, I'm excited to have that opportunity and never matters where it's at or what time of day it is. It's just the playoffs are the playoffs and you want to have a good showing.''

Samardzija's only playoff appearance was a relief outing for the Cubs against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2008 Division Series.

San Francisco could have started midseason acquisition Matt Moore in Game 2. But Samardzija is familiar with Wrigley Field and has not pitched since Sept. 28. Moore, who started the final regular-season game, would get throw back home in a Game 4.

Chicago Game 2 starter Kyle Hendricks went 16-8 with a major league-best 2.13 ERA.

''To be able to pitch here in front of these fans, Game 2, it's a dream come true,'' Hendricks said. ''Really it was a dream come true last year just to be pitching in a playoff game. But for the team, for Joe (Maddon) to have confidence in me to hand me the ball for this game is big.''

Samardzija, a native of nearby Merrillville, Indiana, also played baseball and football at Notre Dame. He signed a $90 million, five-year contract with San Francisco last fall and has bounced back after going 11-13 in his lone season with the White Sox.

Saturday's start will be Samardzija's second as a visitor at Wrigley Field. In September, he threw 47 pitches in a three-run first and exited after four innings.

Samardzija was critical of the Cubs' rebuilding plan, especially when they traded Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to Baltimore and Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers on the same day in early July 2013.

The deal with the Orioles became one of the defining moments that helped make the Cubs one of the best teams in the majors the past two years, bringing them 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and reliever Pedro Strop.

Samardzija met with Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein last offseason before signing with San Francisco, but the Cubs focused on outfielder Jason Heyward and pitcher John Lackey.

''There was a handful of teams that I could see myself playing for with the direction they were going, the strength of the division, the guys they had in their farm team,'' he said. ''So obviously the Cubs checked all those boxes. I had good relationships with the people that were there. Just unfortunately when it came down to it, we were kind of looking for different things.''

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