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Giants’ Samardzija sees winter work pay off in spring debut
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Jeff Samardzija kept a locker at Oracle Park in San Francisco this offseason and worked out at the ballpark three days a week. The Giants pitcher also spent two days per week rehabbing at a clinic in San Mateo.

The work paid off Wednesday in his first spring start, the next phase of his comeback from a disappointing 2018 season.

Making his first in-game appearance since July 14, Samardzija threw 32 pitches over two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out one against the Royals at Scottsdale Stadium.

“I think everybody saw last year that I was hurt,” said Samardzija, who was limited to 10 starts in 2018 because of soreness in his right shoulder. “For a lot of the year, I thought I could muscle through it. That’s usually how I approach injuries, is ignore and move on. That had worked for me in the past, but that had been other parts of the body — obliques and hamstrings and quads.

“What I learned is you can pitch with all those feeling 50 percent, but that shoulder and that arm needs to be 95 to 100 percent to get done what you need to get done,” he said. “Sometimes that stubborn approach just isn’t the right way to go.”

Samardzija, 34, started his offseason program Oct. 5 and began throwing at Thanksgiving.

“It’s the new formula for me, which is staying ahead of the game and listening to yourself and listening to your body and your arm,” Samardzija said. “If anything acts up, take care of it right then and there. Last year was a learning process for me. We’re starting to shape that for me of what we need to do every day to stay ahead of the game.”

On Wednesday, Samardzija threw 22 pitches to four batters in the first, with the stadium radar gun registering his fastball at 93-94 mph. He needed just 10 pitches to retire the side in order in the second, including a strikeout of Brett Phillips to end the inning.

Samardzija was more interested in the radar readings on his offspeed pitches to make sure there was enough difference between them and his fastball. He was pleased with those results.

“Absolutely,” Samardzija said. “For me, it’s important to have that pitch mix so you’re not relying on the fastball velo all the time.”

“It was good to see Jeff where he was,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “His command will just get better as he goes. You could see that he was back and letting it go free and easy and used all his pitches.”

NOTES: Catcher Buster Posey is on schedule to make his first spring appearance Friday. Posey is coming off offseason hip surgery and was expected to catch three innings. ... Outfielder Steven Duggar (left shoulder) also was expected to make his first start on Friday. ... Pablo Sandoval, sidelined because of soreness in his side, was not expected to play until the weekend, Bochy said.