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Sunday, April 22, 2012
Grab bag for Cubs until Jackson is ready

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The first start in center field in the post-Marlon Byrd era went to Tony Campana, who shouldn’t get too comfortable with the position.

How soon Brett Jackson gets a chance to come up from Triple-A Iowa and make the spot his own remains to be seen. Center field came up for grabs after Byrd was traded to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday evening.

Until the Cubs think Jackson is ready to come up and take over the spot -- for what they feel could be a good long time -- they will go with a patchwork quilt of options that, in addition to Campana, also includes Joe Mather and Reed Johnson.

“I think I’ll just mix and match out there,” manager Dale Sveum said. “The way the wind’s blowing here or the bigger parks or whatever way it might be, just mix and match the matchups.”

In other words, if the wind is blowing in from center field, as it was Sunday, then home runs aren’t expected and speed is at a premium. That would figure that Campana is playing. Spacious ballparks like those in Los Angeles and San Diego would also be ideal for Campana.

But by the time the Cubs make that particular trip to the West Coast (Aug. 3-8) Jackson could already be in the starting lineup.

When he finally comes up depends a little on how he plays over the next few months in Iowa and how the Cubs view his ability to handle at-bats.

“He still needs to develop,” Sveum said. “He’s still striking out a little too much and needs to be a little more conscious and a little better in that situation because if you’re striking out that much in Triple-A, it will be that much more against big league pitching.”

Jackson has gotten off to a bit of a slow start with a .254 batting average and a .346 on-base-percentage. His 21 strikeouts lead the team, but so do his 10 extra-base hits. He has just 252 at-bats at the Triple-A level, including his 67 this season, and 1,200 minor-league at-bats at all levels.

“The development part is big for everybody and I think until you get those 500 at-bats in Triple-A, that’s something I think the organization and [president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein] wants to impress on our young guys is you’re going to stay and play and develop,” Sveum said.