Former Irish standout Jeff Samardzija was traded to the Oakland Athletics at the beginning of July after a monster first-half of the season with the Chicago Cubs.

Irish Update From Around Professional Baseball

July 14, 2014

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As the 2014 professional baseball season hits its midpoint, it’s time to take a look back at some of the impressive first-half performances from former University of Notre Dame diamond standouts. During the opening months of the season, the Irish have had five Major Leaguers on active rosters and 12 minor leaguers working towards their MLB shot.

Below are some of the highlights of the 2014 season’s first half:

Major League Updates

  • Cleveland Indians reliever John Axford is second on the team in saves (9) and fourth in appearances (41) ââ’¬¦ highlighting the season so far was an impressive April that saw him pick up seven saves in eight opportunities and hold opponents to a .206 batting average.
  • In New York, RHP David Phelps made the move from the bullpen to the starting rotation at the beginning of May ââ’¬¦ after some early struggles, Phelps posted a 2.08 ERA in two July starts (13.0 IP) before the All-Star break.
  • 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 is expected to miss two months.
  • 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, Ind., 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 and was traded to the Oakland Athletics July 5 and earned up his first win with the A’s July 6 ââ’¬¦ Samardzija was also named to his first All-Star game (he won’t pitch) and will wear an NL jersey but reside in the AL dugout for the game.

Minor League Updates

  • Irish basketball captain Pat Connaughton has already earned one call up since signing in June as he had three perfect innings for the Gulf Coast League Orioles in early July before moving on to the Aberdeen IronBirds of the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League.
  • Several minor leaguers have earned call ups since the last Irish pro update in December ââ’¬¦ in addition to Jagielo, Mancini and Slania, Brian Dupra is now in Double-A with the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League after an impressive 3-0 start (1.25 ERA) with the Potamac Nationals of the Advanced A Carolina League to open the year ââ’¬¦ Dupra made one start with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs of the International League before settling in with the Senators.
  • Meanwhile in Montana, Connaughton’s teammate Donnie Hissa has been extremely steady for the Helena Brewers of the Rookie Pioneer League as he sports a 1.80 ERA in five innings of work ââ’¬¦ the Iron River, Wis., native has allowed just four hits, one walk and a run while striking out four.
  • Before an oblique injury sidelined him for a month-plus, Eric Jagielo was leading the Florida State League in homers ââ’¬¦ he is the Yankees’ No. 4 minor league prospect and was named an FSL Mid-Season All-Star June 14.
  • Cole Johnson, the older brother of Irish co-captain Forrest Johnson, was named to the Eastern League (Double-A) All-Star team (Eastern Division) recently as a member of the New Britain Rock Cats ââ’¬¦ despite a 1-5 record, Johnson has put together an impressive stat line in 2014 with six saves and 54 strikeouts in 44.2 innings of work ââ’¬¦ he sports a 3.02 ERA and has walked just 12 batters in 33 appearances.
  • Former teammate Trey Mancini is sharing Jagielo’s success as he was named a South Atlantic League Mid-Season All-Star June 17 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 of the South Atlantic League.
  • Steve Sabatino has been downright dominant for the Peoria Chiefs of the Class A Midwest League so far this season as he has a 5-1 record with a perfect 0.00 ERA in 19 appearances ââ’¬¦ he has racked up three saves in 25.0 innings of work and allowed four unearned runs on 11 hits and five walks while striking out 27 ââ’¬¦ opponents are batting just .129 against the lefty.
  • In Augusta, Ga., former standout closer Dan Slania has racked up 10 saves in 36 appearances for the Augusta GreenJackets of the Class A South Atlantic League ââ’¬¦ the Phoenix, Ariz., native has racked up 38 strikeouts in 51.1 innings of work.
  • On the comeback trail is former major leaguer Kyle Weiland, who has 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 Astros over the last three weeks and was recently moved up to the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League.


#44 John Axford – RHP – Cleveland Indians

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  • Second on team with nine saves; Fourth in appearances (41)

#52 – Jeff Manship – RHP – Philadelphia Phillies

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#41 David Phelps – RHP – New York Yankees

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  • Transitioned from the bullpen to starter at the beginning of May
  • Posted a 2.08 ERA in two July starts (13.0 IP)

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

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  • 2X NL Player of the Week (May 19, June 2)
  • Hit .375 with a .427 OBP and .659 SLG in May ââ’¬¦ totaled 10 doubles, three triples, three homers, six walks, 10 RBI and 17 runs scored to earn NL Player of the Week honors twice during month
  • Was enjoying breakout year before suffering broken right hand May 31 ââ’¬¦ could miss two months

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

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  • NL All-Star
  • Became first pitcher in 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’¬¦ had a 1.46 ERA and a 0-0 record through 10 starts
  • Got first win of year in 11th start
  • Through first 11 starts had a 1-4 record and a 1.32 ERA in 75.0 innings of work
  • Traded to the Oakland Athletics July 5
  • Picked up first win in new uniform July 6
  • Will wear NL All-Star jersey but stand in AL dugout for the Midsummer Classic


Pat Connaughton

#35/RHP/Aberdeen IronBirds/A Short Season/New York-Penn League/Orioles

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Brian Dupra

#30/RHP/Harrisburg Senators/AA/Eastern League/Nationals

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Sean Fitzgerald

#18/RHP/Arizona Angels/Rookie Arizona League/Angels

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Donnie Hissa

#22/RHP/Helena Brewers/Rookie Pioneer League/Brewers

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Joe Hudson

#8/C/Dayton Dragons/A/Midwest League/Reds

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Cole Johnson

#20/RHP/New Britain Rock Cats/AA/Eastern League/Twins

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Eric Jagielo

#20/3B/Tampa Yankees/Advanced A/Florida State League/Yankees

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Trey Mancini

#29/1B/Frederick Keys/A Advanced/Carolina League/Orioles

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Steve Sabatino

#34/LHP/Peoria Chiefs/A/Midwest League/Cardinals

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Matt Scioscia

C/Windy City ThunderBolts/Independent/Frontier League – Owned By Chicago Cubs

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Dan Slania

#45/RHP/Augusta GreenJackets/A/South Atlantic League/Giants

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Kyle Weiland

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

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— Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director