Chicago Cubs: Edwin Jackson

Jackson's fate was sealed before meltdown

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson still believes in himself, but he might be the lone person in town with those feelings. It wouldn’t be a shock, by any means, if Jackson pitched his last game in a Cubs uniform Friday in their 14-5 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers -- though right now he's scheduled for one more start this season.

The lasting memory for him could be not getting out of the first inning as he gave up five runs on four hits and a walk. One hit left the park, a three-run home run by Matt Kemp.

“It’s been a pretty sloppy year, to say the least,” Jackson said after seeing his ERA balloon to 6.38.

Jackson hadn’t pitched in a month because of a minor injury, and with the hype surrounding mound opponent Clayton Kershaw going for win No.20, it was the righty’s chance to prove he still has something left in the tank. Instead, Kershaw led 6-0 before he even took the mound.

“It wasn’t necessarily the outing we were looking for from Edwin today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We have to sit down and talk about and then see where we’re at. It would be difficult for me to say how we would be heading into the winter.”

Can it be anywhere besides moving on from Jackson at this point? It’s probably best for him and the team – though it will cost the Cubs up to $22 million, no matter how they get rid of him. That’s what he’s owed over the next two years.

“I can definitely take the good with the bad,” Jackson said. “I can accept and man up to what I’ve done. I’m not trying to run or hide from anything I’ve done on the field.”

It’s not like Jackson wants to go play golf for the next few years. He wants a shot at turning things around. And maybe he deserves one, just not with the Cubs. It’s becoming painfully obvious a change of scenery is the least Cubs brass can do for him -- and the fans. Back-to-back years of a near plus-5.00 ERA -- and in this case a plus-6.00 ERA -- usually gets you moved out of town, no matter what a contract says.

“It’s super easy to get negative in the game of baseball,” Jackson said. “You have to stay believing in yourself.”

In a way, Jackson has made this an easy decision for the Cubs. This isn’t about fan negativity or finding a sabermetric peripheral for him, as some were doing after last season. This is about moving on from a bad situation. It may be no one’s fault but baseball fate, but trying to salvage something here would be a waste of time and energy. Things are too far gone for Jackson, especially in a situation where the Cubs are trying to develop a winning culture. Luckily, he’s been a good citizen through his trials and tribulations.

“It may seem far-fetched and some people may not think so, but I still think my best years are to come,” Jackson said. “I really don’t care what anyone else thinks, it’s a matter of going out and proving it. I still believe I will do that.”

It just can’t be with the Cubs. But you knew that by now.

Jackson gets Kershaw in return to mound

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Edwin Jackson, Clayton KershawUSA TODAY SportsFresh off the DL, Edwin Jackson takes his 6.09 ERA against Clayton Kershaw and his 1.70 mark.
CHICAGO -- It’s a matchup the Las Vegas oddsmakers probably haven't seen a lot of action on. According to ESPN Stats & Information, for just the second time since earned runs became an official statistic in 1913, a starter with a sub-2.00 ERA will face one with an ERA of 6.00 or higher with a minimum of 20 starts.

In this case, it’s Edwin Jackson (6.09) of the Chicago Cubs set to face Clayton Kershaw (1.70) of the Los Angeles Dodgers at 1:20 CT Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Another layer to the mismatch is the fact that Kershaw is vying for win No. 20 on the season.

“I think Edwin is looking forward to coming back and pitching tomorrow,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Thursday afternoon. “It just happens to be against Kershaw.”

Talk about bad luck. Jackson (6-14) has had a miserable season, and went on the disabled list with a latissimus strain almost a month to the day before Friday’s start. Now the 31-year-old faces the best in the business as he tries to salvage something before winter settles over the 14-32 mark Jackson has posted in his two seasons in Chicago.

“Clearly it hasn’t been the best couple of years with the organization so far, but like I say, I feel like I still have a lot of upside,” Jackson said. “I have a long career ahead of me.”

But will it be with the Cubs? With Chicago still owing the right-hander $22 million for two more years, Cubs president Theo Epstein intimated last offseason that signing Jackson when the team did could have been a mistake. What must he be thinking now? The Cubs will undoubtedly have to eat a lot of that salary if he’s not on the team.

However, Jackson can’t worry about any of that just yet.

“Any time you come back from an injury, it’s always exciting coming back, regardless of how you were pitching that year,” he said. “I do want to finish up strong. One or two starts. Whatever it may be.”

In the other dugout is a man having a year for the ages. At 19-3, Kershaw has given up just 125 hits in 185⅓ innings pitched. His WHIP is 0.83. Jackson’s is double that. And his ERA ranks last by a wide margin among regular starters. Kershaw’s is first.

“They have a lot of young guys that can hit," the Dodgers left-hander said of the Cubs, "so no game is easy."

A pitcher doesn’t have the success he’s had without taking every opponent seriously. That brings us back to that one previous ERA mismatch. It was the Florida Marlins versus the New York Mets in 1996. Kevin Brown, with a 1.88 ERA, took on Paul Wilson and his 6.19 ERA at Shea Stadium.

The Mets won 6-1.

There is hope for the home team Friday.

“I just want to go out and pitch well no matter who I’m facing,” Jackson said. “We could use the win.”

Jacob Turner in as Cubs reset rotation

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs will make some rotation alterations in the wake of Edwin Jackson's trip to the disabled list this week.

Jackson’s regular spot in the rotation comes up again Tuesday at Cincinnati, but Travis Wood will be able to move to that spot on a regular four days of rest thanks to an off day Monday. Jacob Turner, who was acquired Aug. 8 in a trade with the Miami Marlins, will move into the rotation and pitch Wednesday.

Jake Arrieta will remain in his regular spot in the rotation and pitch in Thursday’s series finale at Cincinnati.

Wood is 7-11 this season with a 4.91 ERA and hasn’t won a game since June 15. In 12 starts since then, he is 0-6 with a 5.43 ERA and opponents are batting .300 against him.

Turner has made two appearances in a Cubs uniform since he was traded, both in relief. He made 20 appearances with the Marlins this season, 12 of which were starts. In those starts, he was 4-5 with a 6.03 ERA and gave up eight home runs in 62 2/3 innings. In 20 innings as a reliever he has not given up a home run.

Turner did “start” for the Cubs when Tuesday’s rain delayed game against the Baltimore Orioles was resumed Thursday. Technically a relief appearance, he gave up one run in two innings and the Cubs went on to the victory.

Jackson went to the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a right lat strain.

DL trip muddies Jackson's Cubs future

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
By Sahadev Sharma
Special to
Edwin JacksonJerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports"As a professional, you go out there and you don't live by any excuses," Edwin Jackson said.

CHICAGO -- In a move that came as a bit of a surprise, the Chicago Cubs placed pitcher Edwin Jackson on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a right-lat strain. With Jackson’s struggles well-documented and the Cubs searching for innings for numerous pitchers, the DL stint, while certainly unfortunate, does give the Cubs a chance to look at some of their younger arms.

Jacob Turner is already part of the bullpen and took over for Tsuyoshi Wada when Tuesday’s game resumed in the bottom of the fifth inning Thursday. Felix Doubront, scheduled for a rehab start with Double-A Tennessee on Sunday, is slated to start one end of the doubleheader against the Cardinals on Aug. 30. Dan Straily, acquired in the Jeff Samardzija trade in July and who has already made a spot start with the Cubs, has looked good in recent starts at Iowa and might deserve a chance come September.

Clearly, the Cubs have numerous intriguing arms who could help the team in the future. First, however, they need to find spots for them to fill. As of now, it’s clear that Jake Arrieta (2.61 ERA in 117⅓ innings) will be in the rotation. Kyle Hendricks (1.48 ERA in seven big league starts) appears to have a spot next season as well. Wada has been very strong in his outings, but picking up the left-hander's 2015 option, depending on the price and the team’s need, is a decision that will likely be made in the offseason. And while Travis Wood has struggled, it’s very possible he’ll return and be given an opportunity to bounce back to his form of 2013, when he tossed 200 innings and delivered a 3.11 ERA.

With Jackson putting up two of the worst seasons of his career since joining the Cubs, he has been the logical choice to be moved out of the rotation. That is not, however, an easy decision. Put aside the fact that Jackson has another two years and $22 million left on his deal after this season. Jackson, 30, is also one of the hardest-working and most respected players in the clubhouse. While some might feel that isn’t a valid reason to keep an underperforming player in his current role, it does make it easier for a manager to justify giving the player every opportunity to work through his issues.

Jackson said he’d been feeling the effects his injury for a few starts now but tried to battle through it and perform to the best of his capabilities.

“I’ve never been one to make any excuses,” the right-hander said. “I’ve never said anything to anyone about anything. You go out and you have a job to do. Once you choose to take the field, you choose to handle anything that comes with it. That’s pretty much the approach I’ve taken.

[+] EnlargeEdwin Jackson
David Banks/Getty Images"I still think I have a lot of upside and I still have a lot to bring to the table," 30-year-old Edwin Jackson said. "I just haven't proved it."
“I haven’t been out there pitching like I know I could, and I haven’t really made any complaints about anything going on with my body, because as a professional, you go out there and you don’t live by any excuses. But you battle, you battle, you battle, and it comes to the point where you have to suck up pride and do what’s best for yourself and the team.”

In his time with the Cubs, Jackson has made 57 starts, tossed 314⅓ innings and posted a rough 5.47 ERA. However, Jackson has never lashed out at the media or a fan base that’s often very critical of him -- and, to be fair, criticism comes with poor performances, which Jackson seems to understand.

“I don’t think I’ve proven to the fans or the organization of Chicago what I can do, what I’m capable of doing,” Jackson said. “Maybe a glimpse here and there, but I still think I have a lot of upside and I still have a lot to bring to the table. I just haven’t proved it. At the end of the day, you have to go out and do it on the field.”

According to Brooks Baseball, Jackson’s fastball velocity peaked in July, with an average of 94.69 mph, and dipped to a career low for a month at 93.35 mph in August. At times, Jackson appeared to have his best "stuff," but getting to it wasn’t always the easiest.

“I feel like it’s been a battle within myself, I have to really dig down and reach down to get the velocity,” Jackson said. “Earlier, it was just coming nice and easy -- I didn’t have to do anything to try to get velocity, it was pretty much there. When you’re dealing with [an injury], it causes you to make changes in mechanics, different arm slots, and as a pitcher that’s something you don’t want to do.”

Jackson pointed out that making mechanical tweaks to try to compensate for an injury can lead to an even worse injury -- and he didn’t want to a minor injury turning into a season-ender or, worse, surgery that could take him out for 2015.

And though his velocity was down, Jackson said he hasn’t lost faith in his ability.

“I haven’t lost any confidence, when I take the field, I feel like I’m the best pitcher on the field,” Jackson said. “It just hasn’t shown. I feel like I have a lot to prove to the organization and I have a lot to prove to the fans of Chicago and I feel like I still owe them a lot. I’m being paid a lucrative contract, I still owe a lot on the field and to the team.”

Jackson’s future with the team and his ability to live up to the lofty expectations that come with that large contract are a little foggy at the moment. The team could give him another shot at rediscovering the formula that made him an innings-eating, midrotation starter -- and he certainly can’t currently be described as an "innings-eater," as he hasn’t tossed seven or more in a start since May 17.

The Cubs could move him to the bullpen to see if he would be more effective in shorter bursts, though he has shown a tendency to struggle early in games. However, that might not be relevant to relieving, as a pitcher is prone to try to establish different pitches and has a different game plan when starting than when relieving.

It’s also possible that Jackson could be with another team next season, whether he’s traded or just released. But with his current contract, either of those options would be a little tricky.

Jackson has proved to have an even-keeled personality, not prone swings of emotion in good times or bad.

Unfortunately, while with the Cubs, the bad moments are the ones that have seemed to dominate. The Cubs have a lot of decisions to make this offseason -- and over the next 18 months. What happens with Jackson might be one of the more important ones.

Jackson's starting role coming to a close?

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- The end of the line might be in sight for Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson's hopes of remaining a starter after his latest performance. He lasted only 2 2/3 innings against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night and gave up seven runs in an 8-3 loss.

"No one wants to be moved," Jackson said about a possible new role in the bullpen. "The only thing you can do if you don't like it is go out there and pitch out of jams. I have to get back to having fun. Tonight was an example of absolutely not doing that. Just being uptight and battling yourself."

[+] EnlargeEdwin Jackson
David Banks/Getty ImagesEdwin Jackson says he was uptight and battling himself Wednesday, giving up seven runs in a loss to the Giants.
Jackson has never shied away from explaining his woes, but the time for explanations is about over. The Cubs seemingly have to take action on the pitcher with the highest ERA (6.09) among regular starters.

"We're going to assess and evaluate and see where we go," manager Rick Renteria said.

In fact, Renteria said that about three times, which revealed little in words but plenty in meaning.

"It's command," he said. "His velocity is still decent."

Said Jackson: "It's just terrible. There is no excuse for it. I didn't help myself. I didn't help my team."

It was batting practice for the Giants, as the only out among the first seven batters came on a sacrifice fly. Jackson gave up line drives and several home runs.

"If it happens, it happens," Jackson said of being taken out of the rotation. "I haven't made it an easy decision for the organization or the team."

The bigger picture is what to do with Jackson over the remainder of his contract. He is owed $22 million the next two seasons. Will the Cubs simply eat most or all of that salary? A team turning the corner with young players is going to have a hard time finding a place for him. But that's for six weeks from now. At this moment, a move to the bullpen seems to be in order.

"If that's the case, I haven't fought to not make that a case," Jackson said. "Would I be happy? I haven't done anything to help it. You have to pitch deep into games. ... It's pretty much black and white. There's no gray area. I'll deal with it when it comes."

Rapid Reaction: Giants 8, Cubs 3

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs lost to the San Francisco Giants 8-3 on Wednesday night. Here's a quick look at the game.

How it happened: Edwin Jackson gave up seven runs in the first three innings as the Giants pulled away early. They scored four runs in the first inning with Pablo Sandoval, Joe Panik and Travis Ishikawa racking up the RBIs. The Cubs struck back when Chris Valaika hit his first home run as a Cub, a two-run shot in the second. But three more runs in the third by the Giants, including another RBI by Ishikawa and a two-run home run by Andrew Susac, put the game away. Hunter Pence hit a long ball the next inning. Luis Valbuena went deep in the eighth to complete the scoring.

What it means: There's simply nothing left to say about Jackson that hasn't been said. He lasted only 2⅔ innings, giving up eight hits, two walks and seven runs. His ERA is 6.09, by far the highest in baseball among regular starters. No other pitcher who qualifies for the ERA title has one over 5.00.

Turner for Thursday: Jacob Turner will take over on the mound for the Cubs when they resume play in their suspended game with the Giants at 4:05 p.m. CT on Thursday.

What's next: After the completion of their suspended game Thursday afternoon, the teams will play the series finale later in the night with Travis Wood (7-10, 4.86 ERA) taking on Madison Bumgarner (13-9, 3.14).

Jackson's job could be in jeopardy

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Edwin JacksonJerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsEdwin Jackson reacts after giving up a solo home run to the Brewers' Khris Davis.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson says he’s not concerned with losing his starting job in the final weeks of the season because it’s not something he can control. He’s only half right. He doesn’t make the decisions, but if he was pitching better it certainly wouldn’t be on the table.

“I know I’m a way better pitcher than I’ve been showing,” Jackson said after giving up five runs in a 6-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. “I don’t walk around with my head held down and I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me.”

It’s doubtful anyone is feeling sorry for Jackson, considering he’s going to make $52 million from the Cubs despite posting the worst ERA (5.74) this year among all starters who have pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. But with a 6-13 record, will he lose his starting gig?

“Not necessarily,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I don’t think that’s anything that’s in the forefront of my thinking or the organization’s thinking. If something were to change we’ll let you guys know.”

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Rays 4, Cubs 0

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0 on Saturday afternoon. Here’s a quick look at the game.

How it happened: The Rays put up two runs in the fourth and sixth innings while starter Jake Odorizzi was mowing the Cubs down en route to Tampa Bay’s second straight win. Evan Longoria and Yunel Escobar had RBI hits in the fourth and Escobar drove in two more in the sixth. Odorizzi struck out nine while giving up just three hits in six innings of work. Between the first and second innings he struck out five in a row, whiffing Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena and Arismendy Alcantara. The Cubs struck out 15 times overall. Edwin Jackson lasted six innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks.

What it means: The strikeout totals are starting to pile up for Baez, who ended a run of six in a row with a sixth-inning double. The Cubs' all-time record is nine consecutive strikeouts. Baez looked to get out of his rut by doubling to cap off a 10-pitch at-bat in the sixth, but he struck out again in the ninth. That's seven strikeouts in the series so far.

The Cubs’ defense hasn’t been great in the first two games of the series, but Alcantara’s play in center field continues to impress. He made a sliding catch of a Kevin Kiermaier ball in the third inning and a diving grab on James Loney in the fourth. Both came with men on base.

Doubront throws: Pitcher Felix Doubront is back throwing as he recovers from a calf strain.

“He continues to progress,” manager Rick Renteria said before the game.

Turner coming: Newly acquired pitcher Jacob Turner is scheduled to join the team Sunday and will more than likely head to the bullpen, though Renteria isn’t certain what the right-hander's role will be yet. The Cubs have not announced whose roster spot he will be taking.

What’s next: The Cubs will try to avoid getting swept with Travis Wood (7-9, 5.08 ERA) scheduled to take the mound against Alex Cobb (7-6, 3.52) Sunday in a 1:20 p.m. CT start.

Cubs need to let Jackson stretch it out

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Cubs want to protect their young relievers -- a topic lately around Wrigley Field -- then why aren't they letting a pitcher like Edwin Jackson stay in games longer?

If they're going to start the struggling pitcher in the first place how about letting him earn his paycheck by eating up some more innings?

[+] EnlargeEdwin Jackson
AP Photo/Matt YorkEdwin Jackson is averaging five innings a start for the Cubs this season.
"It's been a tough stretch for me lately," Jackson said after his short, four-inning stint on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies. "It seems like anything that can happen does happen."

Jackson is nearly untradeable as he's owed $22 million over the next two seasons after this one. He's 13-29 since joining the Cubs, but if he wants to help he should suffer through a few more innings to save his teammates.

"It would have been foolish to send him back out there after 105 pitches in four innings," manager Rick Renteria said of his Tuesday outing.

Says who? Not Jackson.

"As a starter you always want to go back out," he said. "I definitely would have taken one for the team (Tuesday). Regardless of the pitch count, I still feel strong."

No one knew the Cubs would play 16 innings on Tuesday and require their catcher to pitch the final inning but that's not the point. Jackson and Travis Wood need to hold up their end of the bargain considering the Cubs are starting rookies in the final two spots in the rotation and have a young, overused bullpen.

"We have to try and put our finger on whatever the stumbling block is," Renteria said of Jackson's woes.

Fine, let him figure it out on the mound. On Tuesday, Jackson gave up three first-inning runs but nothing else. It was a 3-3 game when he came out. Who cares if he was at 105 pitches? Consider this: In 2012, the year before Jackson signed with the Cubs, he threw at least 105 pitches 10 times that season playing for the Washington Nationals. In nearly two seasons with the Cubs, he's thrown that many pitches or more a total of nine times including just four this season when they need him the most.

But this isn't on Jackson. He wants to pitch.

"I'm accustomed to throwing a lot of pitches," Jackson said. "I felt pretty good for the most part. I had a few walks mixed in between."

On the same day Jackson was pulled after four innings, general manager Jed Hoyer spoke of being careful with his young relief corps. If only he had veterans then none of this would matter, he said after being asked if the Cubs were concerned with how Renteria is handling his bullpen.

"No concern at all," Hoyer said. "We've put him in a really difficult spot because we've had to carry an extra reliever for most of the year. And we do have some restrictions on those guys."

Yes, the restrictions on the relievers don't help but having the extra arm does. That kind of evens things out -- especially when one of the arms is Carlos Villanueva. He can throw all day but he was inexplicably pulled after 37 pitches on Tuesday as well – with two outs and none on in the seventh inning of a 3-3 game. He couldn't get one more out?

"If you have a veteran bullpen those considerations kind of go out the window," Hoyer said of limiting relievers. "I think we've given him (Renteria) a difficult task with some of these young guys."

Jackson isn't young and neither is Carlos Villanueva, but they're being treated as if they are. So what's more important, removing Jackson so the Cubs have a chance at a win or saving the bullpen arms? The latter answer is the only right one. Jackson has started at least 31 games every season since 2007 so he can handle it. And frankly, for how he's performed, it's worth the risk especially since he doesn't mind.

"As a starter you want to go as long as you can," Jackson said, "until you're tired and feel like you can't go anymore. It doesn't always work that way, but that's the mentality you have to have."

Renteria needs that mentality about his veteran as well.

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 4, Rockies 3, (F/16)

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3 in 16 innings on Tuesday night. Here’s a quick look at a long game:

How it happened: Starlin Castro drove home catcher-turned-relief pitcher John Baker with a sacrifice fly in the 16th to end the longest game in the histories of the Cubs and Rockies. Baker pitched the 16th inning to earn the win after the Cubs used eight pitchers, including starter Edwin Jackson, who lasted just four innings. Jackson labored through a 35-pitch first inning as Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau had RBI doubles that produced three runs. The Cubs got one back in the bottom of the inning as Rizzo drove in Emilio Bonifacio, who had doubled. Three innings later, Bonifacio tied the game with his second home run of the season, a two-run shot. It stayed 3-3 all the way until the 16th inning.

Jackson lasted just four inning, throwing 105 pitches. He walked three while giving up six hits and three runs.

[+] EnlargeJohn Baker
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastCatcher -- and relief pitcher -- John Baker scored the winning run in the 16th.
What it means: Jackson is doing the Cubs no favors by throwing so many pitches in so few innings. Little did he know his bullpen would have to throw 12 innings, but his team needs him to spare its taxed relievers. However, in start after start he continues to let them down. And his fielders can’t like his slow pace, either. Though it was “only” three runs, the outing seemed a lot worse due to the high pitch count.

Bonifacio is playing his way out of town as he has gotten hot at the right time for the Cubs. He was a triple shy of the cycle, collecting four hits while raising his batting average to .400 since his return from an oblique injury. Barring a strange twist, Bonifacio should be moved before Thursday’s 3 p.m. CT trade deadline.

Baker pitches: Catcher John Baker became the first position player to pitch in a game for the Cubs since August 2012 when Joe Mather threw against the Milwaukee Brewers. He induced a popup, then walked a hitter before inducing a double-play grounder. Then he came to the plate, walked and scored the winning run a few moments later.

Longest game: It was the Cubs' longest game in franchise history, the 6 hours, 27 minutes surpassing the 6:10 played on Aug. 17, 1982.

What’s next: Game 3 of the series takes place on Wednesday night when Travis Wood (7-9, 5.06) takes on Brett Anderson (1-3, 3.24).

Jackson shows signs of life, if briefly

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
By Ron Matejko
Special to
Edwin JacksonAP Photo/Matt YorkEdwin Jackson had it working through four innings, but the wheels came off fast.

PHOENIX -- Through the first four innings of Friday's game at Arizona, it appeared Edwin Jackson might have found at least a little bit of that old magic.

To that point, the Chicago Cubs right-hander had faced just one batter over the minimum, threw with good control around the plate, wasn't walking batters and had a good fastball working. He also kept the ball down, and Arizona didn't hit any fly balls during that stretch.

Then came the fifth inning, when the Diamondbacks' Nos. 6 through 9 hitters strung together four consecutive singles and struck for a pair of runs to cut the Cubs' lead to 3-2.

After an Anthony Rizzo home run put Chicago up 4-2 in the top of the sixth, Jackson allowed a solo blast to Paul Goldschmidt with one out in the bottom of the inning. It was apparent that whatever has been working during the first four innings wasn't anymore, and Cubs manager Rick Renteria quickly removed Jackson.

"I thought Jackson threw well enough for us to win the ballgame," Renteria said. "He was very composed and threw the ball hard. He was pretty consistent staying at the top of his velocity chart. He minimized damage and looked confident."

This season, Jackson has averaged fewer than six innings per start, and the Cubs hoped he could chew some up in the first of this three-game set coming out of the All-Star break.

And while it looked for a while as if that would happen, the game got away as fast as Goldschmidt's opposite-field, line-drive blast cleared the right-field fence, chasing the former Diamondback from the mound.

Jackson's line on the night was three runs allowed on seven hits with three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

"I was trying to challenge them, especially when we come out and score four runs, you want to make them put the ball in play, and they were able to do that," Jackson said. "If I could take a couple pitches back and locate them a little better, maybe the results would've been a little better. They're a good hitting lineup in a ballpark where the ball flies."

James Russell and Brian Schlitter followed out of the bullpen, and each allowed a run as Arizona took a 5-4 lead after six, a lead that would stand as the final margin.

"I had those guys ready for [Jackson]," Renteria said "Had he gotten into any trouble, I was going to get him. I thought he did his job. He kept us in the ballgame."

Pitching figures to be a weakness for the Cubs for the remainder of the season following the trade of starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel on July 4 -- a fact which only amplifies the need for the staff to protect three-run leads.

But at this point the Cubs are looking to the future, and glimpses of the pitching help that is on the way could be seen at Wrigley Field sooner than later.

Jackson: 'It was embarrassing'

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- Not even the excitement of newcomer Arismendy Alcantara could distract Chicago Cubs fans from pitcher Edwin Jackson’s performance on Saturday. The $52 million hurler summed it up better than anyone in the Cubs' 11-6 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

"It was an embarrassing, horrendous game," Jackson said. "Flat out. No other way to put it."

Jackson couldn’t get out of the fourth inning as he gave up nine runs, including three home runs on seven hits and four walks. In the fateful six-run inning, it looked like he was pitching batting practice. One left the park via pitcher Mike Minor, his second career long ball.

"The team does a great job of battling back and you continuously go out and give up the lead," Jackson stated. "It’s pretty much unacceptable.

"At the end of the day, you have two options: You can accept it and fold or you can take it as a slap in the face and turn it around and do something about it."

Jackson has been singing this tune for the better part of a year and a half with the Cubs, and any time he comes close to showing promise on the mound he takes two steps back. His 5.64 ERA ranks 92nd out of 93 qualified starters, and he’s 13-28 as a Cub, 5-10 this season.

"There’s a lot of baseball left," Jackson said. "I definitely think I can turn things around and have a better second half and have the whole first half forgotten about."

Manager Rick Renteria stated the obvious: "Today was just not his day."

Renteria admitted it was a "good question" when asked if the Cubs were thinking of a different role for Jackson -- as in the bullpen -- but then he quickly dismissed it.

"I would say the answer is no right now," Renteria said.

And now probably isn’t the time to talk about moving a healthy, veteran starter out of the rotation, no matter how bad he is. The Cubs already have two openings after the trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, and they’re going to be careful with their young arms. The short of it: They can march Jackson out there and let him wear it, ERA and record be damned.

"When it’s your day to pitch, it doesn’t matter if we have three veterans or a lineup full of young guys. We have to go out and get the job done," he said. "As professionals, there are no excuses; you either get the job done or you don’t."

"We can talk all day about what you can do and what you have to do. At the end of the day, you have to go out between the lines and do it."

Cubs fans are waiting for that to happen.

Rapid Reaction: Braves 11, Cubs 6

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs lost to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, 11-6. Here's a quick look at the game:

How it happened: Edwin Jackson didn't get out of the fourth inning as he gave up nine runs, seven hits and four walks. Three hits left the park, including two by Chris Johnson and one by the pitcher Mike Minor. The Cubs actually took a 2-0 first inning lead as Arsimendy Alcantara scored on a Justin Ruggiano single after doubling to leadoff for the Cubs. Chris Coghlan also had an RBI in the inning. Down 9-3 in the fifth, the Cubs cut the deficit in half as Coghlan doubled home two more but that's as close as they came. The Braves added two more in the ninth on RBI singles by Justin Upton and Jason Heyward.

What it means: Jackson's ERA rose to 5.64, and juxtaposed against gutty performances by rookies this past week, his start looks even worse. Yes the wind was blowing out but once again Jackson got outpitched by his competition. It has been an ongoing story since signing with the team before last season. Coghlan continued a recent hot streak with two more hits. He's batting .428 in July with a .500 on-base percentage.

Alcantara OF debut: After playing only 11 games in center field this season at Triple-A Iowa, Alcantara had no issues out there on one of the most windy days of the year. He tracked down all catchable balls and played the ones that got behind him correctly. He showed promise with a smooth debut in the outfield at Wrigley. And he was as good as ever at the plate adding another two hits to his first week total. He has scored five times in his first four games.

What's next: The rubber game of the series -- and the finale before the All-Star break -- comes Sunday afternoon when Travis Wood (7-7, 4.64 ERA) faces Julio Teheran (8-6, 2.57).

Cubs bid farewell to Samardzija, Hammel

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
By Benjamin Standig
Professionally speaking, Jeff Samardzija grew up with the Cubs. Chicago selected the 6-foot-5 pitcher in the fifth round of the 2006 amateur draft. Samardzija made his big league debut in 2008, made 83 starts over the next six seasons and made plenty of friends in the locker room along the way.

Those days are done, with the Cubs anyway. After yearlong rumors, Chicago sent Samardzija and pitcher Jason Hammel to the Oakland A's late Friday night in a trade that looked more toward the future than the present.

Starlin Castro
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesStarlin Castro isn't concerned that the Cubs traded for top prospect Addison Russell, who also plays shortstop.
Samardzija's teammates focused on the past when asked for reaction before Saturday's road game against the Washington Nationals.

"We shared a beer and a cigarette and sent him on his way," reliever James Russell said. "It's not fun. We have been through this before. It's just tough to see your boys leave."

Second baseman Darwin Barney had a more difficult time finding the proper sendoff.

“It’s always hard to say goodbye to a dude. What do you do? Do you slap hands? Do you hug? It’s tough," Barney joked. "We’ve known each other for so long and we have built a relationship. He throws ground balls and I catch ground balls.”

Samardzija (2-7, 2.83) was scheduled to pitch Saturday. He is also scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season. The two sides could not come to terms on a long-term extension.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 2, Red Sox 1

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

BOSTON -– The Chicago Cubs beat the Boston Red Sox 2-1 on Tuesday night. Here’s a quick look at the game:

How it happened: Luis Valbuena hit a sacrifice fly to score Anthony Rizzo in the top of the ninth inning with the winning run off Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. Rizzo opened the inning with a single and Starlin Castro doubled him to third before Valbuena hit a 3-2 pitch to right. The Red Sox got on the board in the bottom of the fifth as Dustin Pedroia got the third consecutive two-out hit, bringing home Jackie Bradley Jr. But the Cubs quickly tied it on a fielder’s choice by Chris Coghlan, plating Justin Ruggiano, who had doubled to open the top of the sixth inning. Both starting pitchers, Edwin Jackson and Clay Buchholz, were good in the early innings before getting into jams, but both avoided worse damage than the one run each gave up. Jackson went six, giving up six hits and four walks. Hector Rondon earned his second save in as many nights.

Key moment: The Cubs had a chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh inning when manager Rick Renteria pinch hit Junior Lake for outfielder Nate Schierholtz against lefty reliever Andrew Miller with men on first and third and one out in a 1-1 game. Lake struck out four times on Monday, and coming into the game had 86 for the season. He has 88 now after striking out on three pitches and then again on three in the ninth as runners in both innings were stranded at third. Luckily, the Cubs went on to win the game.

What it means: Jackson picked up where Jake Arrieta left off, keeping Boston off the scoreboard until a fifth-inning, two-out hiccup. But he got out of it with only one run crossing the plate and in doing so brought his ERA under 5.00 (4.99). It wasn’t as easy as Arrieta's outing, but the Red Sox really had only the one rally.

Cubs pitchers have limited Boston to one run over the first 18 innings of the series.

Renteria made a curious decision in sending Lake to the plate in a contact situation. Even though a lefty came into the game, Schierholtz might have been the better option. Or even pitcher Travis Wood. His other right-handed choice? Mike Olt. He’s not much better in the contact department.

Bonifacio update: Ailing infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio is rehabbing a strained oblique at the Cubs' spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona. There’s no timetable for his return or when he’ll head out on an assignment in the minor leagues.

What’s next: The Cubs go for the sweep on Wednesday night when Travis Wood (7-6, 4.52) faces Brandon Workman (1-1, 3.27).



Starlin Castro
.292 14 65 58
HRA. Rizzo 31
RBIA. Rizzo 73
RA. Rizzo 84
OPSA. Rizzo .898
WJ. Arrieta 9
ERAT. Wood 4.86
SOJ. Arrieta 157