Former Irish pitcher Jeff Samardzija

Irish Update From Around Professional Baseball

Nov. 21, 2014

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – While the power of the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, the pitching of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the play of the American League champion Kansas City Royals certainly dominated the headlines during the 2014 Major League Baseball season, several former University of Notre Dame student-athletes turned in outstanding seasons at the MLB and minor league levels as well.

While four players roamed MLB fields, 11 played in the minors, looking to make their mark on their organization.

Below are some of the highlights of the 2014 season:

MLB Updates

  • One of the top stories of the first half of the season was former Irish football and baseball two-sport star Jeff Samardzija ââ’¬¦ the righty started his fourth full season with the Chicago Cubs on fire as he tallied a 1.32 ERA through his first 11 starts ââ’¬¦ however, the Cubs offered the Merrillville, Indiana native no run support as he was held without a win in his first 10 outings, becoming the first starting pitcher in the live ball era and one of only two since 1917 to open a season with seven straight starts of at least five innings with fewer than three earned runs and record no wins in the process ââ’¬¦ he finally picked up a victory in his 11th start before being traded to the Oakland Athletics July 5 ââ’¬¦ he earned his first win with the A’s the next day ââ’¬¦ Samardzija was named to his first All-Star game in 2014 ââ’¬¦ in the game, he wore an NL jersey but resided in the AL dugout ââ’¬¦ he didn’t pitch ââ’¬¦ with the A’s, Samardzija posted a 5-6 record and a 3.14 ERA while hurling two complete games in 16 starts and 111.2 innings of work ââ’¬¦ he struck out 99, walked just 12 and had a minuscule 0.93 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) ââ’¬¦ for the year, he posted a career-best 1.07 WHIP, which was eighth-lowest among eligible pitchers in MLB ââ’¬¦ his 33 starts tied him for 11th best in MLB, while his 219.2 innings pitched were tied for ninth ââ’¬¦ his 202 strikeouts were 13th in baseball, while his WAR (wins above replacement) put him 26th among pitchers ââ’¬¦ lastly, his 2.99 ERA was 22nd ââ’¬¦ Samardzija could be on the trading block again this offseason so stay tuned.
  • If baseball had a most improved player award or a breakout player award, former Irish star A.J. Pollock would have been a strong candidate during the season’s first two months ââ’¬¦ Pollock was twice named the NL Player of the Week during a dominant May where he hit .375 with a .427 OBP and .659 SLG to go along with 10 doubles, three triples, three homers, six walks, 10 RBI and 17 runs scored before breaking his hand May 31 ââ’¬¦ the centerfielder did not return to the Diamondbacks’ lineup until Sept. 2 ââ’¬¦ in September, Pollock hit .273 with a homer, two triples, three doubles, seven walks, six stolen bases, nine RBI and 13 runs scored ââ’¬¦ for the year, he hit .302 with a .353 OBP (on-base percentage) and a .498 slugging percentage (.851 OPS) ââ’¬¦ he totaled seven homers, 24 RBI, 19 walks, 14 stolen bases, six triples, 19 doubles and 41 runs scored in 75 games ââ’¬¦ despite an incredibly shortened season, Pollock finished 12th in the NL in triples ââ’¬¦ Pollock is expected back in centerfield for Arizona to start 2015.
  • In his third year in the majors with the New York Yankees, David Phelps put together a 5-5 record and a save in 32 appearances (17 starts) ââ’¬¦ he had a 4.38 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 113.0 innings of work ââ’¬¦ Last week, Phelps was selected as one of 26 players around the majors to qualify for arbitration despite having less than three years of MLB experience ââ’¬¦ these players are known as Super 2s ââ’¬¦ Phelps should enter 2015 as a potential starter for the Yankees.
  • Former Irish pitcher John Axford played for both the Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014 ââ’¬¦ he opened the year with the Indians, making 49 appearances and boasting a 2-3 record with 10 saves and a 3.92 ERA ââ’¬¦ he was then picked up by the Pirates, where he made 13 appearances ââ’¬¦ he finished the year with a 3.95 ERA, a 2-4 record and 10 saves ââ’¬¦ Axford will more than likely look for a new team this offseason after the Pirates designated him for assignment in late October.
  • Jeff Manship appeared in 20 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014, posting a 1-2 record and 6.65 ERA in 23.0 innings of work ââ’¬¦ since breaking into the majors in 2009, Manship has played for the Minnesota Twins and the Colorado Rockies before landing with the Phillies ââ’¬¦ he was designated for assignment in July 2014 and is currently a free agent.

Minor League Updates

  • Eric Jagielo, the Yankees No. 3 prospect, was leading the Florida State League in homers before an oblique injury sidelined him for over a month ââ’¬¦ he finished his year with the Tampa Yankees, and had a .259/.354/.460 split with 16 homers, 54 RBI, 38 walks and 43 runs scored in 85 games ââ’¬¦ he was named an FSL Mid-Season All-Star in mid-June ââ’¬¦ slated for the Arizona Fall League, Jagielo had another setback in October when he suffered a slight fracture to his zygomatic arch near his left eye that required surgery after taking an 87 mph fastball to the face in an Instructional League game ââ’¬¦ he has made a full recovery and will be ready for Spring Training.
  • RHP Cole Johnson, the older brother of current Irish catcher Forrest Johnson, had a productive year for the New Britain Rock Cats, as he appeared in 49 games (72.2 innings) and struck out 82 batters while tallying a 3.84 ERA ââ’¬¦ he finished with nine saves and earned a spot on the Eastern League All-Star Team.
  • 1B Trey Mancini had a successful start to his 2014 season, as he was named a South Atlantic League Mid-Season All-Star before being promoted to the Frederick Keys in the Class A Advanced Carolina League ââ’¬¦ he earned his promotion by batting .317 with 13 doubles, 42 RBI and 30 runs scored in 68 games for the Delmarva Shorebirds ââ’¬¦ with the Keys, Mancini had 19 doubles, seven homers, 41 RBI, 14 walks and 37 runs scored in 69 games.
  • Steve Sabatino was downright dominant for the Peoria Chiefs of the Class A Midwest League before earning a promotion, as he was 5-2 with a 1.94 ERA in 31 appearances ââ’¬¦ he racked up four saves in 41.2 innings of work, striking out 47 and walking 11 ââ’¬¦ opponents hit just .195 against the lefty ââ’¬¦ he earned a promotion to the Class A Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals in the Florida State League and hurled 3.2 scoreless innings in four appearances before the year ended.
  • Righty reliever Dan Slania tallied 12 saves in 43 appearances (3.99 ERA, 2-5, 58.2 IP) for the Augusta GreenJackets in Class A before earning an end-of-year promotion to the Richmond Flying Squirrels in Double A ââ’¬¦ with the Flying Squirrels, Slania appeared in 10 games and allowed just one earned run in 11.1 innings of work for a 0.79 ERA.
  • Notre Dame basketball senior captain Pat Connaughton had a solid stint with the Aberdeen IronBirds of the New York-Penn League after being drafted in June by the Baltimore Orioles ââ’¬¦ before reporting back to campus in early August for basketball preparation, Connaughton started four games and turned in a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings of work ââ’¬¦ he struck out 10, walked three and had a strong WHIP of 1.09.
  • Brian Dupra saw action at three levels in 2014, as he blew opponents away at the A Advanced level, before settling into Double A ââ’¬¦ went 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA in 21.2 innings for the Potomac Nationals in Class A Advanced ââ’¬¦ had a miniscule 0.78 WHIP and allowed batters to hit just .190 ââ’¬¦ struggled in his first appearance at Double A level, as he had a 2-6 record and 5.60 ERA in 24 appearances and 90.0 innings of work.
  • On the comeback trail is former major leaguer Kyle Weiland, who missed the last two seasons with a mysterious right shoulder injury that required three surgeries to fix ââ’¬¦ he made four solid appearances (1.50 ERA, 5 SO, 6.0 IP) for the Gulf Coast League Astros and was then promoted to the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League ââ’¬¦ there he appeared in five games and pitched six strong innings (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 SO) to earn a call up to the Corpus Christi Hooks for five games in late July and early August.


#44 John Axford– RHP – Cleveland Indians / Pittsburgh Pirates

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#52 – Jeff Manship– RHP – Philadelphia Phillies

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#41 David Phelps– RHP – New York Yankees

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#11 A.J. Pollock– CF – Arizona Diamondbacks

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#29 – Jeff Samardzija– RHP – Chicago Cubs / Oakland Athletics

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RHP – Pat Connaughton(Orioles)

Aberdeen IronBirds / A Short Season / New York-Penn League

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RHP – Brian Dupra (Nationals)

Potomac Nationals / A Advanced / Carolina League

Harrisburg Senators / AA / Eastern League

Syracuse Chiefs / AAA / International League

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RHP – Sean Fitzgerald (Angels)

Arizona Angels / Rookie Arizona League

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RHP Donnie Hissa(Brewers)

Helena Brewers / Rookie Pioneer League

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C – Joe Hudson (Reds)

Dayton Dragons / A (Full) / Midwest League

Bakersfield Blaze / A Advanced / California League

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RHP – Cole Johnson (Twins)

New Britain Rock Cats / AA / Eastern League

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3B Eric Jagielo (Yankees)

Tampa Yankees / A Advanced / Florida State League

Gulf Coast League Yankees / Florida Rookie League (rehab stop)

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1B Trey Mancini (Orioles)

Frederick Keys / A Advanced / Carolina League

Delmarva Shorebirds / A (Full) / South Atlantic League

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LHP – Steve Sabatino (Cardinals)

Peoria Chiefs / A (Full) / Midwest League

Palm Beach Cardinals / A Advanced / Florida State League

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C – Matt Scioscia

Windy City ThunderBolts / Independent / Frontier League

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RHP – Dan Slania(Giants)

Augusta GreenJackets / A (Full) / South Atlantic League

Richmond Flying Squirrels / AA / Eastern League

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RHP Kyle Weiland (Astros)

Corpus Christi Hooks / AA / Texas League

Tri-City ValleyCats/A Short Season/New York-Penn League

Gulf Coast League Astros

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–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director