Frustration mounts with 1-7 Jackson

May, 23, 2013
5/23/13
8:06
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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PITTSBURGH -- Before the Chicago Cubs lost 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday afternoon, manager Dale Sveum sounded like a man getting frustrated with some of his lineup issues.

After the loss he seemed to direct some of that frustration to the team's $52 million offseason signing, Edwin Jackson. He had little command on the mound, giving up four runs to the Pirates in the first two innings while Pittsburgh completed a series sweep.

"(He) seems to be not coming out with a whole lot of conviction early in games," Sveum said. "There wasn't a whole lot of life coming out of that arm today."

A poor start to Jackson's season is simply turning into a poor year, the first of four for the Cubs that pays him approximately $433,000 per start based on a 30-start season. After Thursday, he's 1-7 with a 6.11 ERA.

"I got beat with some balls up in the zone," Jackson said. "Had some times when I got it down but in the vital situations when I needed to keep the ball down I wasn't doing that. Pretty much sums up the game."

The statistics back that up to some extent. He gave up six hits before rain ended his night and three of them came on pitches in the upper half of the zone, but not the upper third, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

"Obviously not real sharp," Sveum said. "No fastball command. Didn't come out with any velocity at the beginning."

He mowed down the Pirates in the third inning but not before the top three hitters in the order got to him in the first two innings. He's been bad more early in games than late, and no one can figure out why.

"It's a game of adjustments," Jackson said. "It's a matter of making better adjustments before you get hurt."

So for now, the Cubs will keep sending him out there trying to find some answers as any step forward by Jackson has been followed by at least one step back. Why he can't find that consistency is frustrating his manager.

"Those are questions and answers, you wish you know what happens in those situations," Sveum said. "Why the same guy doesn't come out all the time?"

Villanueva's role
Carlos Villanueva has embraced his new role back in the bullpen going back-to-back days against the Pirates without allowing any damage. He went two innings on Thursday, striking out the side in the fifth and getting himself out of a small jam in the sixth.

"It's not a big deal," Villanueva said of his new role. "Whatever I have to do I'll do."

Villanueva was a starter for the first six weeks, until Matt Garza's return on Tuesday, but now he'll try to stabilize a very shaky bullpen. The middle innings have had as many issues as the late ones.

"I'd like to win some games regardless, but if I can help that (the relief corp) then so be it," Villanueva said. "I want to help however I can."

The pen might just start to come together with more defined roles. Villanueva will take those middle innings in close games allowing others, like Hector Rondon, to pitch with less pressure.

"Start, relieve, hit, whatever they want me to do, I can do it," Villanueva said.

Notes
  • Starlin Castro said his ankle was a little sore after sliding awkwardly into second base trying to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning, but he stayed in the game. He also felt something on a swing in the eighth but said afterward he is alright.

  • Catcher Welington Castillo walked for just the second time this season, in his 37th game played.
  • Jesse Rogers | email

    Chicago Cubs beat reporter
    Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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    TEAM LEADERS

    WINS LEADER
    Jason Hammel
    WINS ERA SO IP
    8 2.98 104 108
    OTHER LEADERS
    BAS. Castro .289
    HRA. Rizzo 30
    RBIA. Rizzo 71
    RA. Rizzo 81
    OPSA. Rizzo .889
    ERAT. Wood 4.81
    SOJ. Arrieta 135