PITTSBURGH – Look for Edwin Jackson to play a bigger part in the Cubs bullpen.
Jackson hasn’t sulked since losing his job in the rotation, taking his ready-for-whatever attitude to the bullpen and maintaining the same low-key, easy-going personality that makes him so popular inside the clubhouse.
This isn’t what the Cubs pictured when they gave Jackson a $52 million contract, but he’s thrown five scoreless innings so far, pitching his way into more high-leverage situations.
“You can see him get more opportunities now,” manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday at PNC Park. “He’s just earned that right.”
Jackson got the win after throwing a scoreless eighth inning in Tuesday’s 9-8 comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It helped bail out Brian Schlitter and Jason Motte, who combined to give up five runs that night and have struggled at times to build the bridge to Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon.
The Cubs viewed their bullpen as a real strength before right-handers Justin Grimm (forearm) and Neil Ramirez (shoulder) got injured. It stresses the entire group when those two hard-throwing relievers are on the disabled list and rehabbing at the team’s Arizona complex.
These are small sample sizes. Motte started the season with a streak of five scoreless innings, but has allowed five runs combined in his last two appearances. Schlitter (9.64 ERA) has been hit hard since getting called up from Triple-A Iowa on April 10.
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Jackson bombed during his first two seasons in a Cubs uniform, going 14-33 with a 5.58 ERA. The Cubs are trying to salvage the final two years and $22 million left on that deal.
“I’m not saying that you’re not going to see Schlitter (or Motte),” Maddon said. “Of course, you are going to (see them). But you always (play) it like it was first drawn up and don’t try to make too many adjustments too soon. Until you really think you need to try something a little bit differently.
“More than anything, I think Jackson’s earned the right or the opportunity to pitch in some more opportune moments or more difficult moments.”