Results tagged ‘ Edwin Jackson ’

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, The Definition of Success

After nearly two months of preparation, Cubs spring camp is coming to a close, and the team is getting ready to head north to Pittsburgh for the season opener.

In the final installation of our Cubscast Mesa video series, we asked Cubs players to state their definition of success for 2014. Though most pundits don’t expect much from the team, the players are definitely setting their sights high.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Positive Energy in Cubs Camp
Cubscast Mesa: Inside Cubs Park
Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Three
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Four
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Five

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Five

Playing professional baseball is a dream job, but it’s not the most likely career choice. So what would your favorite players be doing if their big league dreams hadn’t come true? We talked to Cubs personnel about some other possible career choices.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa: Positive Energy in Cubs Camp
Cubscast Mesa: Inside Cubs Park
Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Three
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Four

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, The Lighter Side of the Cubs, Part Four

Professional baseball players live an odd life. They work late hours, face enormous pressures and spend half their year on the road—which means they have a lot of down time before they have to be at the park.

In Part Four of our Lighter Side video series, we ask Kris Bryant, Carlos Villanueva, Edwin Jackson and others about their favorite movies.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa, Inside Cubs Park
Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Three

Now Playing: Cubscast Mesa, Inside Cubs Park

Building a model organization is about much more than just acquiring the right players. Those players also need world class facilities in which to practice and train. Following the opening last year of their new training facility in the Dominican Republic, the Cubs took another step in the right direction this spring when they unveiled their new Cubs Park complex in Mesa, Ariz.

The facility includes Cubs Park—which seats 15,000 people—a two-story player development facility and a rebuilt Riverview Park. It all sits on a 146-acre site, making it the largest facility in the Cactus League.

“There are two things that all our baseball operations people have been saying since we walked in for the first time,” said baseball president Theo Epstein at the park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. “One is no more excuses. This place is as good as it gets. And the second is related to that. If we can’t get better here, we can’t get better anywhere. We will work extremely hard to put that World Series flag on top of this complex to finish it off.”

If you didn’t get a chance to head out to Mesa, this spring, we give you an inside look at the Cubs spectacular new Spring Training facility, inside and out.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Three

Now Playing: The Lighter Side of the Cubs, Part Three

Everyone who has ever played baseball has had it happen—a misjudged pop fly that lands one foot behind you, a weak grounder that goes right through your legs or a moment of indecision on the basepaths that makes you look foolish. Major leaguers are no different.

In Part Three of our Lighter Side video series, we ask Travis Wood, Nate Schierholtz, Justin Grimm and others about their most embarrassing moments on a baseball field.

We’ll be posting videos and stories from Cubs Park throughout the spring, so watch the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline. Later this week, we’ll give you an inside look at the new Cubs Park facility in Mesa.

Check out the other videos from our Spring Training series:

Cubscast Mesa with Rick Renteria and the 2014 coaching staff
Cubscast Mesa with the top prospects
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part One
Cubscast Mesa: Meet the new guys
Cubscast Mesa: The lighter side of the Cubs, Part Two

Hof Off the Presses: May issue featuring the Cubs core

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Please don’t judge me, but …

I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan. Look, there wasn’t much I could do about it. I moved a lot when I was younger and lived in Atlanta in the early ’80s. With each subsequent move, I was able to follow the Braves because of TBS.

Here’s what I remember about the Braves from my younger days—1981 was a miserable, strike-shortened year; 1982 was a blast until the postseason (a phenomenon I didn’t realize would repeat itself throughout my adulthood); 1983 was solid; and then depression set in.

The Braves were 80-82 in 1984, and that was by far the best it would get until the franchise began its unprecedented run of regular-season success in 1991. The late ’ 80s saw a wretched slide that reached its nadir in 1988, when the team went 54-106.

54-106!

So why am I recounting this sad chapter from my childhood? I see a lot of similarities between what the Braves were doing in the late ’80s/early ’90s and what the Cubs are doing now.

In 1990, the Braves went 65-97, good for last place in the NL West, 26 games behind the Reds. In 1991, they shocked the baseball world by winning 94 games and getting all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. Since then, they’ve been one of the most stable and consistently excellent teams in pro sports.

But the Braves’ worst-to-first run didn’t come out of the blue. In fact, the team probably wasn’t as bad as its record in 1990. If you look back at the roster, it included names like Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mike Stanton, Ron Gant and David Justice. All those players had some important things in common—they were young, untested, and between the ages of 20 and 25.

When we talked to Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein for our January issue, something he said resonated with me.

“There are two ways to really improve your team in a hurry from one year to the next,” Epstein said. “One is sign impact players or bring in impact players from outside the organization. The other is to have a wave of young talent that’s approaching their prime years at the same time.”

The Cubs might not shock the world this year, but they’re building that wave of talent—players who can grow together, win together, lose together, and ultimately figure things out together as they move into their prime years.

One of these waves is at the major league level now in Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson. Epstein calls these players the “Cubs core.” And the organization is developing another strong group in the low minor leagues with high-ceiling players like Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Pierce Johnson and Dillon Maples.

In the May issue of Vine Line, we talk to the Cubs core about what it means to them to play in Chicago and how they plan to turn potential into major league success. One thing is clear—no matter what the record said at the end of 2012 or what it says right now—these guys do not buy into the presumption that the Cubs are years away from winning.

We also check in on the new minor league affiliate that is helping develop the next wave of top talent. After eight years with the Peoria Chiefs, the Cubs switched their Midwest League affiliate to Kane County, located about 40 miles from Wrigley Field’s doorstep. There are huge benefits to having a farm team nearby, and the Cougars and Cubs both hope to take advantage of that in 2013 and beyond.

Finally, we look at the other side of the Cubs equation—the fan base. This season, the team has developed an advertising and marketing campaign based on the fierce dedication and undying passion of the best fans in the game. We talk to the stars of the new ads and the Cubs front office to find out how it all came together.

To read these stories and more, pick up the May issue of Vine Line, on sale now at select Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today. And you can follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.

Here’s to a brighter future.

—Gary Cohen

Starting rotation a bright spot for Cubs

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Carlos Villanueva has been solid in the Cubs rotation. (Photo by Stephen Green)

Offensive woes and fielding mishaps have hijacked the headlines for the Cubs as the baseball season reaches the one-month mark. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the team has scored just 61 runs, 13th in the National League. And considering how much time has been spent reinforcing the basics in the last few years, it’s even more surprising that the defense has committed 17 errors in 18 games, second most in the NL. Those stats will need to improve if the team hopes to do better than the 59 wins they managed last season.

But there is some cause for optimism in Chicago thanks to a surprisingly dominant starting rotation.

The starting five as whole has a 3.11 ERA, .208 opponent batting average, 1.15 WHIP and 98 strikeouts over 110 innings. Those numbers are good for third, first, tied for first and fourth respectively.

The front five has thrown a total of 110 innings, sixth most in the NL. Because of the struggles in the bullpen (4.86 ERA, 12th in the NL), manager Dale Sveum has had his starters throw 68.8 percent of all pitches this season, the fourth highest percentage in the NL. Also, Cubs arms have managed to keep the ball on the ground 52.2 percent of the time, while allowing a home run on just 10 percent of all fly balls, good for second and fifth, respectively.

When you look at how the starters have fared individually, these stats should come as no surprise. Newcomer Carlos Villanueva carries a 1.03 ERA—top 10 for starters in the NL—into Tuesday night’s start. Despite throwing a fastball that clocks in at just 87 mph, the veteran has managed to fan 15 batters over 21 innings, walking just four.

Southpaw Travis Wood has a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings. The 26-year-old has gone at least six innings in all four appearances this year, including solid outings against the offensive-minded Brewers, Rangers and Reds.

After a solid 2012, staff ace Jeff Samardzija is trying to establish himself as one of the game’s elite this season. Though his 3.38 ERA could be lower at this point in the year, his 31 strikeouts over 26.2 innings are good for third in the NL. That puts him in the same company as perennial All-Stars Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright. Add in prized free agent Edwin Jackson and his 24 Ks over 22.1 innings, and it looks like the staff is in good shape.

And let’s not forget that the rotation isn’t even at full strength. Former ace Matt Garza is scheduled to return from a strained lat in early May, and free agent acquisition Scott Baker could be ready to go shortly after the All-Star break. If the offense warms up and the Cubs can find someone to get the last three outs, they have a good chance to improve on last season’s win total.

2013 Pitching Profile: Edwin Jackson

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Following what seemed like an interminable Spring Training season, Edwin Jackson will finally make his Cubs debut tonight against the Pirates at 6 p.m. CST. In January, the 29-year-old right-handed pitcher became the first major free agent signing of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era when he inked a four-year, $52 million contract with the team. With temperatures hovering in the mid-30s at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park Wednesday, it could be a good night to be a power pitcher.

Though Jackson’s career has been marked by short stints with various major league teams—he’s now with his eighth team in 10 big league seasons—his stats show general improvement. In 2012, Jackson finished the year with a 4.03 ERA and 8.0 K/9, slightly better than his career 4.40 ERA and 6.9 K/9. With a fastball that can reach 97-98 mph, Jackson brings a top-line power arm to the fold and will strengthen the Cubs’ pitching depth—a crucial component to success.

Jackson is one of several pitchers profiled in Vine Line‘s 2013 Pitching Preview, available in the April issue, on sale now. We’ll be posting pitching profiles throughout the month, so be sure to check back to see what’s in store on the mound for 2013.

EDWIN JACKSON*
Repertoire (Avg. MPH):
4-seam (94), 2-seam (94), Cutter (93), Change (87), Slider (86), Curve (80)
Age: 29
2012 Stats: 189 IP, 21.3 K percentage, 6.8 UBB percentage, 4.03 ERA, 98 ERA+, 1.22 WHIP

Last Season: Steady Improvement
As the rotation horse for last year’s playoff-bound Nationals, Jackson had somewhat of a coming of age. The flamethrower, who didn’t turn 29 until season’s end, set career bests with his strikeout and walk rates (21 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively). Despite already working for eight major league employers, Jackson’s career has been marked by durability and general improvement since he made his big league debut after his 20th birthday. He’ll be well worth the Cubs’ four-year investment if he extends his streak of five straight seasons with at least 180 innings.

Plan of Attack: If you have two plus-plus pitches, use them
Watching Jackson deal can be a real treat. His momentum drives toward the plate, and his explosive arm action generates a mid-90s fastball that can touch 97-98 mph even into the late innings. He relies mostly on the pure velocity of his four-seamer, but he’ll sink some two-seamers (and an adequate change-up) away from lefties as well. He even re-implemented a cut fastball during the second half of last season. But his fastball largely sets up his other great weapon—the slider.

Putaway Pitch: Slider
If Jackson gets two strikes on a hitter, watch out. Last season, one of every two swings on Jackson’s slider was a whiff. It was even harder to hit with less than two strikes, when hitters weren’t expecting it. Jackson’s slider has late, downward break and moves farther out of the zone as the game goes along. Largely thanks to the increased use of his slider, as well as his sinking fastball, Jackson transformed from a fly-ball pitcher before 2010 to a more neutral one since.

*Numbers courtesy Brooks Baseball

—Sean Ahmed

From the Pages of Vine Line: Q&A with GM Jed Hoyer (Part 1)

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

The end of Spring Training marked the beginning of Year Two for Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer. Besides knowing his way around Wrigleyville a little better, he also comes into 2013 with a much improved feel for the organization, at both the major league and minor league levels.

The 2012 Cubs had their share of on-field struggles, so Hoyer spent much of his second offseason with the organization finding ways to improve on last year’s meager win total. But Hoyer has a plan, and he doesn’t want to deviate from it. His focus was on finding players who fit what the Cubs are trying to do.

Part of that plan included making the new front office’s first big free-agent splash, adding 29-year-old right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson, who the team signed to a four-year, $52 million deal in January. Other notable acquisitions included low-risk, high-reward signings like right-handers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva, and outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston.

For the April issue of Vine Line, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat sat down with Hoyer to talk about the 2013 Cubs, the differences between this season and last, and what to look for as the organization moves forward. We’ll post some of the quotes here on the blog in the next few weeks. To read the entire interview, pick up the April issue or subscribe to Vine Line today.

Vine Line: Coming off a rough year in 2012, what was your top priority this offseason?

Jed Hoyer: As an organization, we’re still not where we want to be from a pitching standpoint. I think that probably the biggest weakness when we got here was depth in pitching, especially at the upper levels. Ideally, you want to home-grow all of your pitching. We don’t have that luxury right now, so we actively sought out a lot of starting pitching. We brought in four guys we see as starters: [Edwin] Jackson, [Scott] Feldman, [Scott] Baker and [Carlos] Villanueva. We’ve had some injuries and setbacks this spring, but we feel we can weather that storm. That was certainly a priority for the offseason.

VL: Jackson’s contract—four years, $52 million—surprised some fans because of the length and amount.

JH: The biggest thing with him is his age. He’s been really durable. He’ll pitch this year at 29 years old. Our goal is to create a really good, young team. At some point, we know we’ll have to delve into free agency. You can’t wait and do it all at once. Signing a 29-year-old pitcher to a four-year deal, we felt, was the right thing to do. Getting him at this age, we feel he still has some upside left and that it was a prudent decision. We’re excited to have him.

VL: Ian Stewart struggled last year and was sidelined by a wrist injury. Why did you decide to bring him back?

JH: We’re not really sure we saw the best of Ian last year. He had the wrist injury, and he never felt 100 percent. We had a lot of discussions about that in the offseason and decided to bring him back, given he had the wrist surgery. We felt he’d be ready to go. Unfortunately, he had a setback early in the spring. I still feel the wrist was an issue with his hitting, but we don’t know how much it affected him last year. We thought the right thing to do was bring him back. It’s hard to find third basemen in today’s game. He’s a really good defender, he’s a left-handed hitter, he has power. There’s a lot there, and hopefully we can unlock it.

VL: How different was this spring compared to last year?

JH: It’s a lot different. I went through the same thing in San Diego when I went there in 2010. I felt so much more comfortable in 2011. Your first year is a blur. Theo and I talk about that all the time. Every face is new from a player standpoint, coaching staff, media, staff. Now you know people, so you feel more comfortable. Even with the players, that’s the biggest thing. It’s a lot different spring in a good way. We hope not to make any changes any time soon and hope to become part of the fabric of the Cubs going forward.

Baez back in lineup after monster weekend

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Javier Baez’s Spring Training stay with the Cubs looks like it’s coming to an end Monday night. With just a few weeks until Opening Day, the organization likely wants to start consolidating the players they feel are in serious consideration of a major league spot. Even though the 20-year-old has said on numerous occasions he feels he’s ready to contribute to the major league team right now, the phenom hasn’t even spent much time in Double-A. But that’s not to say he isn’t going down without a fight.

Baez had an incredible stretch at the plate over the weekend, including one point in which he hit three home runs on three straight pitches.

On Friday, a Cubs split-squad team squared off against Team Japan, a side competing in the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. With the game tied at five in the ninth, and a seventh-inning home run already to his name, Baez stepped up with a man on second. After falling behind 0-2, the shortstop ripped a slider over the fence for a walk-off, two-run homer. He had allegedly told Welington Castillo—who was on deck at the time—that he wouldn’t have to hit.

The next day Baez hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning, the Cubs’ fourth run of the game at that point. After a fly out in the third, Baez hit another solo shot to left in the fifth to wrap up his day.

He concluded the weekend with a pair of hits on Sunday, including a double and an RBI against the Athletics. Baez will bat fourth in what could be his final Spring Training game with the major league club on Monday.

Edwin Jackson will take the ball for the Cubs as they take on San Diego. The game starts at 3:05 CST and can be heard on Cubs.com. Clayton Richard will throw for the Padres. Here’s the lineup he’ll be facing:

CF Dave Sappelt
LF Darnell McDonald
RF Jorge Soler
SS Javier Baez
C Steve Clevenger
3B Edwin Maysonet
1B Brent Lillibridge
2B Alberto Gonzalez
P Edwin Jackson

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