Cubs: Edwin Jackson will be ready for whatever


Cubs: Edwin Jackson will be ready for whatever

DENVER — At some point, the Cubs will need Edwin Jackson in a big situation. The season is so long — and so many bad things can happen to a pitching staff — that this can’t simply be coming out of the bullpen for garbage time.

“You just have to tell yourself to be ready for whatever situation arises,” Jackson said Saturday at Coors Field. “Try to stay in the game. Just be ready when the phone rings and your name is called.”

This isn’t what anyone envisioned when the Cubs signed Jackson to a four-year, $52 million contract. But after two disappointing seasons in the rotation (14-33, 5.58 ERA), Jackson will have to reinvent himself as a swingman (or pitch well enough to build up some trade value).  

[MORE: Cubs waiting for the offensive jolt Kris Bryant could deliver]

Jackson looked sharp during Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies, throwing two scoreless innings while allowing only one hit against zero walks and two strikeouts.    

“He’s been very professional,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And then he gets his chance and does really, really well. So that tells you how well he’s processed the whole moment. I think Eddie’s done a great job with that, honestly. And that speaks or bodes well for him and for us if he could handle it like that and keep performing well. 

“You know he’s going to get an opportunity. You know it’s going to pop up, either a long moment out of the bullpen that helps us win a game, or he’s going to get a start and do the same thing.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

For all the moments of frustration on the field, Jackson still has an easygoing personality that plays well inside the clubhouse, and a remarkably calm, patient way of answering questions from the media.

“When the guys start complaining about stuff,” Maddon said, “or they stop working and the woe-is-me, the victim’s-complex people of the world (come out), it never works. It never works. And after all, you’re playing (for) a Major League Baseball team. Come on, just do your job and then see how it evolves from there.”

If this experiment goes well, could you see an opportunity to get back into the rotation?    

“I don’t know,” Jackson said. “I don’t really worry about that. I just try to go out and whatever the job is…get it done for the inning, or however many innings I’m going to pitch. I really worry about what I can control. Try to put up zeroes.” 

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'


Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans


Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: