PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Cubs send their biggest offseason acquisition – pitcher Edwin Jackson -- to the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday looking to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 1995.
They'll have a good chance to do so if history is any indication -- Jackson is 4-0 lifetime against the Pirates with a 3.03 ERA.
With the Cubs in a rebuilding mode, the idea of signing a free agent to big money didn't seem to fit their plans but president Theo Epstein said the Cubs had to act.
"You can't wait for the perfect opportunity to acquire a pitcher or wait until right when you're ready to win the World Series to add 40 to 60 percent of your rotation," Epstein said in January. "You have to seriously considering adding pitchers when they're there if they check a lot of the boxes that you're looking for.”
So Jackson is one of the few players signed in the Epstein era who is part of the "solution" for the Cubs. He's not just a player holding a place for a prospect or a yet-to-be-acquired mainstay. He is a mainstay -- unless of course the Cubs decide to trade him before his contract is up. That would be a sign they're even further away from winning then they even thought. But that's not Plan A.
Plan A involves Jackson pitching 200 innings every year for the next four years and by the middle point in his deal perhaps it's for a contending team. His debut against the Pirates is the beginning of that journey for him.
The lineup: Jackson will be opposed by left Wandy Rodriguez who is 7-7 lifetime against the Cubs with a 3.74 ERA. The lineup will start to shed some light on how manager Dale Sveum will match up against the lefties.
Sveum had four lefties in the lineup against the right-handed A.J. Burnett on Monday, but that number is sure to come down against Rodriguez. But how many of those lefties will sit?
Anthony Rizzo is a lock to start -- plus he's 3-for-6 in his career against Rodriguez. Although Nate Schierholtz was on base four times Monday, Scott Hairston is a lifetime .368 (7-19) hitter with two home runs against Rodriguez. Schierholtz is 0-for-3.
David DeJesus will probably get the nod again in centerfield but Sveum won't hesitate to use Dave Sappelt in that spot every so often. Brent Lillibridge and Luis Valbuena are both 1-for-3 facing Rodriguez although both had awful days at the plate Monday. The righty Lillibridge will probably start at third base which means Alberto Gonzalez would start at second for Darwin Barney, who is on the disabled list. Or Sveum could just stay the course with both Valbuena and Lillibridge in the lineup again.
It's expected to be 37 degrees for the 6 p.m. CT start, and that's not good for the likes of Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs leftfielder admittedly struggles in cold weather despite a career batting average in April of .289. However, his power numbers are the lowest of any month of the season. And Soriano is just 5-for-41 (.122) in his career against Rodriguez.
The Cubs signed outfielder Ryan Sweeneyto a minor league deal after he was released by the Boston Red Sox at the end of spring training. The former White Sox prospect is a depth guy, but as a left-hander he's in the same boat as Brian Bogusevic. The Cubs have a plethora of left-handers which means injuries or trades will probably be the way those guys get opportunities in the major leagues again. Sweeney will report to Triple-A Iowa.