SAN FRANCISCO — It was somewhat appropriate that the Jeff Samardzija press conference at AT&T Park came a couple hours after Zack Greinke was introduced at Chase Field. Greinke was the first choice of the offseason, but when he chose the Diamondbacks, the Giants locked Samardzija up within a matter of hours. On Friday, Samardzija donned a No. 29 jersey, smiled for the cameras, and made it clear that he didn’t wait long to accept the Giants’ offer.
“What I kept going back to was the Giants approaching me from the very beginning and being interested in me. To me, that means the most,” he said. “When the team knows right out of the gate, there are the handful of guys that we really like and we’re going to prioritize those guys. For them to come in as early as they did, it opens up my ears and my eyes – on top of already being a fan of the organization from afar.”
Samardzija was one of the first of the free agent pitchers to sign, and others may end up regretting not doing the same. It remains to be seen how much the Cuetos and Leakes and Kazmirs of the market will get, but Samardzija saw a big offer he liked and jumped at it. His first foray into free agency didn’t last long.
“Obviously, you have to play it cool, right?” he said. “It’s kind of like being in high school and trying to find a homecoming date. You just don’t want to be left out there in the cold.”
There was certainly nothing cold about his visit to San Francisco last month.
“The chemistry with Jeff in that meeting and his desire to be a Giant and our desire to bring him over was a pretty overwhelming thing,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said.
Samardzija has a limited no-trade clause but the Giants don’t figure it’ll come into play. On Friday they introduced a player who is locked up for the next five years, and he had a lot to say. He said he identified a major issue in his 2015 slump, and Brian Sabean noted that there’s one part of Samardzija’s resume that stuck out over the rest. Here are some of the other highlights …
Samardzija on talking to former and current Giants: “I talked to some former players I knew, most importantly including Nate Schierholtz, who I played with in Chicago and became a real close friend of mine, and he had nothing but amazing things to say about this organization, almost to a tone of he wishes he were still there. I always picked up on that. He enjoyed his time here, and to me when it comes from another guy like that who has high class and high character, and they’re not pulling your chain trying to get a job over there, it means a lot to me. He always has great things to say and enjoyed his time here, and it always stuck with me.
“Cainer reached out to me, Buster reached out to me. To (see) their texts and how excited they are to be part of the team after all they’ve accomplished and all they’ve done really gets me excited. They’re not resting on their laurels. They want to keep winning ballgames, and so do I.”
On having a fresh arm since he played football and was a reliever: “Yeah, I feel amazing. I love pitching in September. I feel I get better the later the year goes. All that work you’ve done all year catches up to you, your body gets a little stronger, and frankly I like to see people get tired. It gives me a little energy and perks me up a little bit more if guys are out there shaking their hands because their hands are sore or stretching their hammies. I love it. For me, that’s when I get going. I’m just getting warmed up. When the season’s over, it’s a sad day. I’m ready to keep pitching, and all that work you’re doing in the offseason, that’s what that’s for. We’re on the treadmills and doing squats now so that in September, you’re at your peak and ready to go.”
On working with Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner: “A guy like me, I look at a career like Timmy Lincecum where he came up right out of the gate with 97, 98, a big curveball, a nasty little split-change. But then to see the success that guy had throughout his career even when that 98, 97 wasn’t there says a ton. As a pitcher when you see guys have success with different stuff that’s always an exciting thing.”
On living in San Francisco hotels when he played for the A’s: “The hotels are great. They’re all amazing hotels. I’ve seen them all, I’ve seen every corner of them, every restaurant. I went to rent and $7,000 in San Fran just doesn’t quite get you what you’re looking for. It’s more of a dorm room. So I went the hotel route and I loved it. I loved the people in San Francisco obviously. I loved that when they noticed me they said hi and went about their business. I love how people have their own thing going on in San Francisco, whatever that may be. A lot of drive in this city and a lot of passion, which you can feel. It’s palpable here. And just to be a part of that in my own direction, I’m not necessarily a techie or anything like that, I’m a baseball player and that’s where I’ll go, but I also understand and feel the passion in this city for whatever it is, whether it’s basketball or the Niners or the Giants. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”