- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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MESA, Ariz. -- Not to be outdone by hot shot Chicago Cubs prospect Jorge Soler, former first-round pick Brett Jackson impressed coaches Friday with a three-hit performance in the Cubs’ second -- and final -- spring training intra-squad game.
“Good to feel like you have some rhythm and feel the swing working,” Jackson said afterwards. “So, yeah, I’m happy with today.”
It’s been well-documented that Jackson spent the offseason reworking his swing after a rough start to his major league career in 2012. He struck out 59 times in 142 plate appearances.
“When you really revamp the swing … and then you get results, that’s what you’re really looking for,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Because sometimes you do something like that and you don’t get results and you might get discouraged and you might start searching again.”
Jackson agreed. It’s a good feeling to make changes and see results -- even in an intra-squad contest.
“It’s a big confidence boost,” Jackson said. “I worked really hard this offseason. To make a muscle-memory adjustment is a pain … to see results is good. I’m going to keep pounding on that to reinforce it is second nature.”
Jackson is ticketed to start the season at Triple A-Iowa, but how long he remains there might be up to him. It’s way early but so far the changes are paying off.
“Today he took advantage of mistakes where sometimes in the past we’ve seen him swing through those mistakes,” Sveum said.
The Cubs impressed their manager with their plate approaches in both intra-squad games on Thursday and Friday. In Friday’s affair hitters drew eight walks in a five-inning game.
“Sometimes a quality at-bat is not swinging at a pitchers pitch (and) getting yourself out quick,” Sveum said. “Getting yourself out in fastball counts. That’s what we’re trying to eliminate, quick outs because of bad pitch selection in hitters counts.”
In an all-hitters meeting recently, Sveum and his coaches expressed their desire for hitters to take the “low borderline” pitches and look for higher pitches to drive.
“If you’re looking for the ball up and it’s there you’re going to crush it,’ Anthony Rizzo said. “If you’re looking for it up and it’s a little down you’ll naturally drop your hands to it.
“If you’re swinging at low borderline pitches you’re not going to have much success. If a pitcher throws it there three times in a row, you tip your cap.”
The obvious reasoning behind the theory, according to Darwin Barney, is that “not many good things happen when you beat the ball into the ground.” High pitches are the ones a hitter can drive. If not, taking a walk or at least seeing a lot of pitches is the next best thing.
“We had that hitters meeting the other day and some of that was said,” Scott Hairston said. “The system likes to see a lot of pitches. There’s stages where I see a lot of pitches and sometimes I go up there and be very aggressive. Whatever it takes to get on base.”
If hitters are earning eight walks in a five-inning intra-squad game, that means pitchers are giving them up. Sveum was straightforward in his assessment.
“Couple of them it’s the same old thing,” he said. “Bullpen (sessions) are good and a batter steps in there and they’re not throwing strikes.”
Sveum singled out Alberto Cabrera who walked four in two innings on Friday. That’s coming off 18 walks given up in 21 innings last season for the Cubs.
For the second day in a row, Sveum praised Soler for his patience more than anything. Soler walked twice in his first three intra-squad at-bats and saw a lot of pitches. It doesn’t exactly match his scouting report.
“Not according to his media guide in the short sample that he’s got,” Sveum joked. “He’s on center stage so sometimes the concentration level picks up. But he’s got a lot of poise. The game doesn’t look too fast for him at all.”
Dave Sappelt had a three-hit day on Friday after some struggles on Thursday.
“I’m not too concerned about Sappelt,” Sveum said. “I think he’s put himself in that category where he can just hit.”
Sveum said results of Ian Stewart’s MRI weren’t known yet while he doubted Josh Vitters would need one. Both strained their left quad muscles on Thursday.
1hESPN Stats & Information
19hJohn Jackson, Special to ESPN.com
2dJohn Jackson, Special to ESPN.com