Edwin Jackson earning bigger role in Cubs bullpen


Edwin Jackson earning bigger role in Cubs bullpen

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.”

[MORE: Maddon doesn't think pitchers are targeting Rizzo]

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.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

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.”

Podcast: Main takeaways from the 5-game Cubs-Cardinals series


Podcast: Main takeaways from the 5-game Cubs-Cardinals series

Tony Andracki is joined by Phil Barnes, the senior editor of Vine Line, to break down the Cubs-Cardinals 5-game series at Wrigley Field that kicked off the second half of the 2018 MLB season.

The main takeaways from the weekend included an up-close look at a Cubs starting rotation is still struggling to find their footing almost 2/3 of the way through the season. 

The Cubs lineup and bullpen continue to be the saving grace of the team with the NL's best record and run differential, but there are serious question marks moving forward on the depth of the relievers as well as waiting for Kris Bryant to return to MVP form.

Check out the entire podcast here:

Kaplan: Why Harry Caray was simply the best

Kaplan: Why Harry Caray was simply the best

Growing up in the Chicago area, we have been fortunate to hear some of the greatest names in sports broadcasting. From Jack Brickhouse to Harry Caray to Pat Foley to Jim Durham to Pat Hughes to Wayne Larrivee, the list is long and illustrious of the best play-by-play men in Chicago sports history.

For me, growing up listening to and watching many of these men on an almost daily basis only served to stoke my interest in pursuing sports broadcasting as my chosen career. All of the greats were obviously well prepared and technically excellent calling their respective sports, but for me one man stood above the rest because of his irreverence and ability to entertain people in a variety of ways. I ran home from Middleton School in Skokie to watch the final innings of many afternoon Cubs games in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, and I loved Jack Brickhouse and the enthusiasm he brought to each and every broadcast.

However, Harry Caray was the one that captured my heart and pulled me toward this great field of radio and TV broadcasting. Harry was one of the best technical baseball announcers in the history of the sport, but many people who only became aware of him as the announcer for the Cubs on WGN-TV only got to experience him in the twilight of his career, when he was best known for singing the Seventh Inning Stretch and his mispronunciations of players' names.

In the main portion of his 50-plus-year career, Harry called some of the game's greatest moments and saw many of the all-time greats. As the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics and the White Sox, he became one of the best in the sport with his colorful calls and honesty about the team he was working for. Fans loved his willingness to tell the truth and to openly cheer for the team he was affiliated with. However, when he was hired as the voice of the Cubs on WGN-TV, he became larger than life. With the power of the superstation behind him, he reached another level. A whole new generation of young people became Cubs fans — even if the team wasn't very good — because of the man in the funny glasses who was wildly entertaining.

I fell in love with his style and his entertainment ability. He was must-watch TV even when the games weren't very good. Until the Cubs signed Jon Lester and he became a key member of a World Series champion, Harry Caray was the single best free-agent signing in the history of the Cubs. From 1982 to 1997, he was bigger than almost every player who wore Cubbie Blue. Former All-Star first baseman Mark Grace remembered with a wry smile a story from his days as a Cub that shows just how big Caray was in relation to even the biggest-name players.

"We were playing the Marlins in Miami, and I was signing autographs alongside Rick Sutcliffe and Ryne Sandberg," Grace said. "There were long lines for each of us, and then Harry poked his head out of the Cubs dugout. The fans spotted him and someone yelled: 'Hey everybody, there's Harry!'

"I'm not kidding, everybody ran over to him, and the three of us were left with no one to sign for. We looked at each other, and Sutcliffe says to us, 'Guys, now you know where we rank on the totem pole.'"

Harry Caray was a legend and for me. He was the most entertaining play-by-play man I ever listened to. I still find myself listening to old tapes of him, and I am still as entertained today as I was then. Harry was simply the best.