Results tagged ‘ Edwin Jackson ’

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

Samardzija gets Opening Day nod, E-Jax set for home opener

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(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty images)

On Thursday afternoon, manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio announced the Cubs rotation for the first week of the regular season. Right-hander Jeff Samardzija will get the nod on Opening Day, April 1, at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

“That’s what I signed up for,” Samardzija said. “If you don’t want those expectations for yourself, then you may as well go play somewhere else. That’s just kind of a given. There’s going to be pressure, and there’s going to be a lot riding on what you do.”

Samardzija came into last season just hoping to land a spot in the rotation after a successful 2011 in the bullpen. This year, most see the Shark as a front-of-the-rotation guy and a possible ace. He commands five pitches and was third in the league in average fastball velocity last season. His four-seamer clocked in at 95.9 mph, and his two-seamer averaged 95.4 mph.

He’ll be followed in the first week by righty Edwin Jackson, lefty Travis Wood, righty Scot Feldman and righty Carlos Villanueva.

Jackson, who signed a four-year, $52 million contract this offseason, will get the start in the Cubs home opener April 8 against the division rival Brewers.

Both Matt Garza and offseason acquisition Scott Baker will miss the start of the season recovering from injuries.

Jackson to make Cubs debut, Villanueva at third

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Christian Villanueva will get the start at third base Tuesday.
(Photo by Scott Jontes/Daytona Cubs)

The Cubs made a plethora of moves this offseason to improve a struggling rotation. The biggest of those moves—Edwin Jackson—is scheduled to put his arm on display Tuesday as the North Siders host Colorado in Mesa, Ariz.

Even though Spring Training games are just kicking off, Jackson’s path the Cubs has been well documented. Despite entering the majors on his 20th birthday, making an All-Star team, throwing a no-hitter and winning a World Series, he was traded six times from 2006-11. Last season in Washington, he went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA and completed his sixth straight year starting 30 games.

Defensively, Cubs regulars Anthony Rizzo (first base), Starlin Castro (shortstop) and David DeJesus (center field) will all be in action. Projected backup Dioner Navarro will catch and Brett Jackson will be playing left field, spelling Alfonso Soriano, who will DH. The bottom third of the order is comprised of a trio of interesting hopefuls.

Brent Lillibridge, whose versatility has already been applauded this spring, will start at second. Though he struggled offensively for three teams (White Sox, Red Sox, Indians) last year, he saw time at every position but catcher in 2012.

Christian Villanueva was the key piece in the Ryan Dempster deal during the trade deadline. In High-A ball last season, the third baseman hit .279/.353/.427 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 homers and 68 driven in. But the 2012 Top 100 prospect according to Baseball America is better known for his slick glove. Villanueva gets the nod at third base Tuesday.

Johermyn Chavez put up monster stats in High-A in 2010 for Seattle. Hitting .315 with 32 homers and 30 doubles, things looked promising. But his stats haven’t resembled that season since. Last year he hit .232 in 288 at-bats, with eight home runs in Double-A. But he is just 24 years old. The Cubs took a chance and signed him in November, with the hopes of regaining those numbers. He’ll be starting in right field.

First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 CST. Cubs fans can listen exclusively on Cubs.com. The Rockies will be sending out righty Jhoulys Chacin. Here is the full batting order:

CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
DH Alfonso Soriano
LF Brett Jackson
C Dioner Navarro
2B Brent Lillibridge
3B Christian Villanueva
RF Johermyn Chavez

Now Playing: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 3

The major league season can be a grind. Playing 162 games takes a toll on an athlete’s body and mind. That’s why downtime is so important. Some players play video games; others spend time with their families.

This week, Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. In the last installment of our spring Kicking Back video series, we talk to Cubs players about how they spent their offseason, what they do to kill time on the road and who is the worst dresser in the clubhouse.

Here are the other videos from out Spring Training series:

Mesa Cubscast: Top Prospects on the Rise

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 2

Mesa Cubscast: The Cubs Core

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 1

Mesa Cubscast: The New Guys

Mesa Cubscast: The Coaching Staff

Now Playing: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 2

Being a major league baseball player can be a strange life. The stakes are always high, millions of people are watching your every move and everyone wants to be your friend. You’d be surprised the things these athletes hear on a day-to-day basis.

Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, Spring Training is a few weeks longer than usual this season. As the spring slate drags on, everyone needs to blow off some steam. Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. We’ll post one more installment of our Kicking Back video series early next week.

Here are the other videos from out Spring Training series:

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 2

Mesa Cubscast: The Cubs Core

Mesa Cubscast: Kicking Back with the Cubs, Part 1

Mesa Cubscast: The New Guys

Mesa Cubscast: The Coaching Staff

 

Now Playing: Mesa Cubscast with the Cubs core

Throughout the offseason, Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein repeatedly talked about growing the Cubs “core” of talented, young players—players the organization can count on for the long haul and who can help bring winning baseball back to Chicago. In the year-plus Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have been with the team, that core has grown dramatically through savvy trades and smart draft picks.

“That core, at least in my mind, went from one player to half a dozen,” Epstein said shortly after the 2012 season ended. “If we can do that again in 2013, and we look up and we have close to a dozen players in our core, I’ll feel great about the overall health of the organization.”

At the major league level, the Cubs foundation now includes talented shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson, and Gold Glove-winning second baseman Darwin Barney. Vine Line sat down with the some of this talented group at Spring Training to see what their expectations are for the coming season.

Cactus Notes: Sveum on Fitch, leadership and the future

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A steady rain drowned out most of the final day of Cubs baseball at Fitch Park on Wednesday, but there was still a little news.

The Cubs announced the starters for the opening games of their Cactus League slate, which kicks off this weekend. Travis Wood will get the Saturday start against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, and Jeff Samardzija will pitch the Sunday home opener against the San Francisco Giants. Carlos Villanueva will pitch Game 3 on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Edwin Jackson will start on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies.

Matt Garza’s debut has been pushed back due to a mild lat strain on his left side. It was announced Tuesday that he’ll likely be out about a week before resuming baseball activities.

Manager Dale Sveum also held his daily presser, despite the lack of on-field action. Here are Sveum’s best quotes from the day:

Then vs. Now
“We have a lot of the same guys in camp [from a year ago] that ended getting some time in the big leagues. But like I said yesterday, there’s just a whole different look in their eyes. Having that experience and going through some adversity with some of the young guys, it’s a whole lot different. There’s just so much more talent in camp this year than there was last year—and also depth. Guys that are very capable of pitching in the big leagues or guys that are on our radar getting really close to the big leagues. … There’s just more playable talent in camp this year.”

Leaving Fitch
“Spring Training is what it is in any park. Here it’s a little bit unique because you have to move [from Fitch to HoHoKam]. Probably my first memory here is when I had to come over here 25 years ago and rehab my leg clear across from Peoria [in extended Spring Training]. We shared it with the Cubs at that time.”

Prospect Watch (Javy Baez, Jorge Soler, Junior Lake, etc.)
“We have so many split-squad games they’re going to get quite a few games in before being sent down. There are a lot of at-bats out there.”

“I’m very anxious [to see them]. Those are the guys you talk about that are on your radar in the minor league systems that have all those God-given tools—the speed, the arm, the power, hopefully the hitting ability, meaning OPS and those things. A lot of that stuff comes a little bit later in careers. But it’s pretty special talent and bat speed those guys have. You want to see it in person and at game speed.”

Veteran Leadership
“We do have some personalities that are able to fill those [leadership] roles. I think [Anthony] Rizzo is one of those guys. I think [Darwin] Barney is ready to be that guy. Obviously Rizzo’s rookie year and Barney winning a Gold Glove—those kinds of things give you added ability to be a leader in the clubhouse because people look up to people like that. We have [Alfonso] Soriano, and [Jeff] Samardzija is going to take on that role, as well as [Matt] Garza and Edwin Jackson. So we have plenty of personalities that can do that.”

Building for the Future
“Going into this last year, you knew the plan we had, and we weren’t going to take any shortcuts to vary from it. Within a year, the whole organization has changed so dramatically for the good. You just get better players in the organization, and you create an atmosphere where people want to play here, and they want to come to this ballpark and work. That’s all you can do. That’s the transformation we’re trying to do all the time here. And it’s changed a ton in a year.”

Now Playing: Mesa Cubscast, The New Guys

After a busy offseason, the 2013 Cubs came into camp riding a wave of optimism. The team added depth to the rotation, versatility in the outfield and an extra year of experience for the younger players. On Tuesday, Vine Line sat down with some of the new guys to find out why they wanted to come to Chicago and what goals they have set for the season ahead.

Vine Line will be posting videos and content from Fitch Park and HoHoKam Stadium all week long, so keep an eye on the blog and our Twitter account, @cubsvineline.

Spring Training Preview: The Starting Five

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(Photo by Stephen Green)

Finally, baseball is back. As pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is nearing.

And to get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five groups—starting pitching, relief pitching, infielders, outfielders and catchers—to give people a clearer picture of what the team could look like when it breaks camp and heads to Chicago.

Below is the starting rotation preview. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.


If everyone stays healthy—always a big if—the Cubs will have an abundance of starting pitching for the first time in a while. Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson and Jeff Samardzija are locks for the rotation, while Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Travis Wood and Carlos Villanueva will battle for the final two spots. Baker, who has a 63-48 career record, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Though he may be ready come Opening Day, the Cubs’ depth allows them to be patient with his return.

Garza’s rehab from the elbow issues that knocked him out for the final two months of 2012 appears to be on schedule, and he’s been adamant that he’ll be ready by April. A healthy Garza could build on his impressive 2011 season, in which he had a career-best 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts. The Cubs’ surplus of starting pitching makes the idea of parting with Garza in a trade for prospects slightly easier to stomach. That’s certainly a possibility, either in March when he’s proven he’s healthy or at the July trade deadline.

Jackson’s acquisition provides the team with a reliable innings-eater—he’s made at least 31 starts and tossed at least 180 innings in each of the last five seasons—a wildly underappreciated skill. Any manager who’s had to overuse his bullpen, like the Cubs have the past few seasons, will tell you how much he appreciates having a pitcher he can rely on to deliver six quality innings every fifth day.

Feldman and Wood both have the ability to be competent starters, and Villanueva showed flashes of brilliance last season, including an impressive 22.9 percent strikeout rate and 6.7 percent walk rate in 92 innings as a starter. However, he has yet to prove he can deliver those numbers over 160-plus innings.

The real breakout star in the rotation may be Samardzija, whose road to this point has been bumpy. In the span of two seasons, Samardzija has gone from failed prospect, to reliable bullpen arm, to possible future ace, thanks to his dogged work ethic and electric arm. Samardzija will have no innings limit in 2013, so it’s a good bet he’ll take another step forward and become the anchor for a rotation that has the potential to be the team’s strength.

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