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Cubs’ Samardzija up against headhunter buzz

Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 10:58 a.m. CDT

HOUSTON (MCT) — Is Jeff Samardzija a headhunter?

In some quarters, the Cubs right-hander is getting a reputation as somebody who retaliates against hitters when he’s upset, but Braves hitting coach Greg Walker doesn’t think Samardzija was trying to hit Paul Konerko in his last start.

Samardzija, who was visibly disturbed by the incident Friday, has denied throwing at Konerko. Most White Sox players agreed it was an accident.

Walker, who watched video of the pitch, dismissed it as “a splitter that got away,” saying he saw no intent.

“If you were going to throw at someone, you wouldn’t throw at Paul Konerko,” Walker said by telephone. “Players in the game have too much respect for Paul. He’s like Jim Thome in that way. “

Samardzija has hit only two batters with pitches this season, Konerko and the Braves’ Jason Heyward. Both times it was after they had homered earlier in the game.

Walker said there are some in the Braves’ clubhouse who believe Samardzija drilled Heyward. But according to Walker, the issue in question in that May 7 game actually came in the at-bat after the home run, when Heyward grounded out on a 3-0 pitch. Samardzija hit Heyward with the first pitch his next time up.

“Our guys thought he was saying, ‘You don’t swing at a 3-0 pitch against me,’” Walker said. “If that’s what it was, it’s ridiculous because it was a one-run game at the time. When you’re 6-5, 240 and your team is down one run, you better swing at a 3-0 fastball when somebody throws you one. You (hit somebody for that), you don’t understand baseball.”

Samardzija beat the Braves that game, holding one of baseball’s best lineups to one run in seven innings, with seven strikeouts.

“He’s really good,” Walker said. “That’s legit stuff he’s throwing.”

Short return for Clevenger: With Welington Castillo going on the disabled list to open a spot for Travis Wood on Tuesday, the Cubs have three catchers on the DL. Manager Dale Sveum said Steve Clevenger was close enough to being activated that he could serve as insurance behind Koyie Hill and Blake Lalli.

But Clevenger left Triple-A Iowa’s game Tuesday after running the bases in the third inning, possibly experiencing more problems with his strained oblique. A report on the game by thecubreporter.com indicated Clevenger appeared injured after sliding into home. He was being used as a DH.

Extra innings: Sveum will miss Wednesday’s game to attend his son Rustin’s graduation from Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. Bench coach Jamie Quirk fills in. ... Bryan LaHair, in a 1-for-20 slump that has dropped his average to .315, got the night off Tuesday but is expected to face Wandy Rodriguez on Wednesday. ... Carlos Marmol (hamstring) will throw a simulated game Wednesday, with the hope he pitches for Iowa on Friday.

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