When Jeff Samardzija toes the rubber on Wednesday in the series finale with the Yankees, he may be gunning for more than just his first win of 2014. Think of it as an audition, of sorts.
With arbitration eligibility right around the corner, Samardzija is due a big payday if he keeps pitching like he has this season. The right-hander is 0-4 this season and hasn't won a start since last August despite posting a 1.62 ERA, the lowest mark in the Majors.
Enter the Yankees, who after the recent setback with CC Sabathia's knee, are in need of pitching help. Add in the facts that the Yankees are prone to add big-name players at the Trade Deadline and that the Yanks and Cubs have developed a working relationship (see the Alfonso Soriano trade last season), and you're left with a logical suitor for Samardzija should the rebuilding Cubs decide to move him later this season.
"I'll be honest, I really don't concern myself with that too much," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of the trade rumors swirling around his ace and fellow starter Jason Hammel. "I can only control what I have before me. Right now, the men I have are doing a great job, and they're still here with me."
A move to New York could rejuvenate Samardzija by taking him from a last-place team to a perennial contender sure to be in the hunt for a playoff berth. If circumstances were better, Samardzija could be leading the bigs in wins.
"Just because he hasn't had the victories at the end of his scoreline, doesn't mean he hasn't pitched victoriously," Renteria said. "He's pitched great. He's mature, he's a man who knows he's doing what he can do, controlling what he can control, and every single time he takes the ball, he'll try to do the same thing.
"If anybody has shown resiliency, it's Jeff."
Wednesday's matinee also represents Derek Jeter's final game at Wrigley Field, yet another check mark in his farewell tour.
"I'm a baseball historian, so I appreciate the fact that there's a lot of history that comes along with this ballpark," Jeter said. "I'm happy that I get an opportunity to be here."
Yankees: Whitley to make second start
Chase Whitley will make his second career start when he takes the mound at Wrigley Field. He allowed just two hits in 4 2/3 shutout innings in his Major League debut, Thursday at Citi Field against the Mets, an experience he said included an "unbelievable amount" of nerves.
"I was telling [Brian Roberts], I said, 'Hey, it's just a little kid's game again,'" Whitley said. "After I got a couple innings under my belt, I was able to just remember that I was playing a game I've been playing since I was 5 years old."
Whitley threw 74 pitches in the outing, tiring in the end. He hopes to go deeper into the game this time around.
"Adrenaline wore off a little bit," he said. "I threw some pitches that weren't close -- but that's something I've got to build on next time, for sure."
Cubs: Renteria not concerned about Olt's strikeouts
When Mike Olt makes solid contact, the ball tends to go a long way. Olt, in a platoon at third base with Luis Valbuena, is second among rookies with nine home runs, many of the tape-measure variety. His 23 RBIs lead all National League rookies.
But Olt doesn't make contact at a high rate. He's hitting just .183 with nearly twice as many strikeouts (37) as hits (19) in 105 at-bats. Those numbers don't worry Renteria, though.
"Mike historically has been a high-strikeout guy in his career," Renteria. "He's a guy who, when he puts the barrel on the baseball, has a chance to drive it. He's a guy who hopefully has a high slugging [percentage] and puts points on the board quickly. I'm not worried too much about the strikeouts, quite frankly, or the batting average. If he wasn't doing damage with the homers, you'd have a sense of concern. When he puts the barrel on the ball, he does damage."
• Since moving to No. 4 spot in the lineup, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is hitting .326 (29-for-89) with nine doubles, four homers and 14 RBIs in 22 games.
• The Cubs' bullpen has had just 11 save opportunities this season, fewest in baseball.
• Chicago is 1-21 when trailing after six innings, but 15-2 when leading after six.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.