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RHP Jackson hopes to bring winning touch to Cubs

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RHP Jackson hopes to bring winning touch to Cubs

CHICAGO (AP) Edwin Jackson keeps bouncing around, and he thinks he knows why.

``I think everybody likes me,'' he said.

The 29-year-old right-hander might find some stability now that he has a four-year, $52 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

The team announced the move on Wednesday after reaching an agreement last month, giving the Cubs a durable starter to add to their rotation as they try to dig themselves out from a 101-loss season.

Jackson is now on his eighth team in 11 years, including a run with the crosstown White Sox, and is 70-71 lifetime with a 4.40 ERA. He made the All-Star team with Detroit in 2009 and pitched a no-hitter for Arizona in 2010. He has also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Washington, going 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA for the NL East champion Nationals last season.

He has made at least 31 starts in each of the past six seasons while reaching double digits in wins and exceeding 180 innings the past five. That includes three straight seasons of at least 199 2-3 innings from 2009 to 2011, and the Cubs believe he will still be effective once they're ready to contend, which they hope is sooner than later.

``I think we've been really consistent in saying the value of every individual season is precious,'' general manager Jed Hoyer said. ``We want to put a great team on the field every year. We've also been clear that we're building for something we think is going to be very special, and we want to make sure that any free agent signings of this magnitude really fit in with this plan. Like I said, Edwin is 29 years old. He's already had six consecutive seasons making 31-plus starts. He's proven his durability. He's proven his durability. He's proven his talent, but he's also still at an age where we think he can get even better and at an age where he fits right in with what we're trying to do, age-wise and talent-wise with our roster.''

The fact that Jackson's played on so many teams? That didn't bother the Cubs.

Hoyer said Jackson probably wasn't ready when he debuted at age 20 with the Dodgers, and he attributed the more recent moves to the inability to sign him to an extension.

Now, maybe, Jackson can settle in. The son of a retired Army sergeant, he's no stranger to big moves and along with this deal, he's about to make another one. Jackson is getting married this weekend.

``You look at the team on paper, there's a lot of potential there,'' Jackson said. ``I've been on a lot of teams that you look on paper, nobody expected you to do anything. You end up going to the World Series or making the playoffs. It's definitely one of those teams where it's a few pieces away from being where you want to be. I feel like with the additions that we have and the team that we have right now that we can go out and win ballgames and have fun and definitely have the city of Chicago behind us.''

In Chicago, he'll be reunited with Matt Garza, his teammate in Tampa Bay. Those two and Jeff Samardzija figure to lead a rotation, with Travis Wood and newcomers Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. The Cubs are also working on a deal with pitcher Carlos Villanueva that's pending a physical.

They also tried to land Anibal Sanchez, but he wound up staying in Detroit with a deal that guarantees $80 million over five years and could be worth $91 million if the Tigers decide to keep him for a sixth year. The same day Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and chairman Tom Ricketts were wooing him in Florida, Hoyer and manager Dale Sveum met with Jackson in Newport Beach, Calif.

The Cubs probably would not have signed both pitchers.

``But all along, we sort of operate on parallel tracks,'' Hoyer said. ``Both guys fit what we're looking for as far as them being (in their late 20s) and being part of our core. It was interesting how (we had) sort of two camps. It just sort of ended up that way, schedule-wise. It wasn't intentional.''

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Bryce Harper trolls Cubs fans after they call him overrated because of course he did

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Bryce Harper trolls Cubs fans after they call him overrated because of course he did

It's not just the City of Brotherly Love that heckles Bryce Harper from time to time, it's also one of the clubs he spurned during his offseason tour before settling on Philadelphia.

Prior to losing on a walk-off single to Cubs' star Javy Baez, Harper had a battle going on aside from the scheduled matchup, and that battle didn't involve any players on the opposing squads, but it did include the fans that fill their seats at Wrigley Field.

After the fans booed him all evening and labeled him overrated, the former Nats star chucked a fastball right over their heads and across the street.

Fortunately, the ball didn't break any nearby windows.

We hope. 

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Nationals bullpen finds a new way to lose a game

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Nationals bullpen finds a new way to lose a game

NEW YORK -- The Washington Nationals lost to the New York Mets, 6-5, Tuesday to drop their record to 19-29. Here are five observations from the game…

1. They gave the lead back in the seventh, then again in the eighth before losing in the ninth. You know who “they” is.

A three-run homer run off Wander Suero provided the first shot against the Nationals’ league-worst bullpen. Suero threw a curveball to pinch-hitter J.D. Davis, who is hitting .429 against breaking pitches this year, and Davis hit it into the right-field stands. Not only is Davis potent against breaking pitches, but the curveball is also Suero’s worst pitch. He was beat on a curveball in the ninth inning April 14 to lose the lead. Afterward, in April, manager Davey Martinez said he was surprised by the pitch call. Yan Gomes was calling pitches that game, too. Yet, they called it Tuesday night, despite the dual emphatic counters to why that’s a good pitch in that situation.

“He got two big strikeouts with it,” Gomes said of the selection. “We were trying to expand the zone with it and just when you leave pitches up to good hitters, they're going to do some damage to it. I think [leaving pitches up] can beat anybody. We were trying to expand the zone, we left up just enough for him to hit it and J.D. did what he did. He's a good hitter and he made us pay for it.”

The Nationals rallied for two runs in the eighth to again take the lead back. Trea Turner doubled to drive in a run. Juan Soto followed with a double. Washington led, 5-4.

Matt Grace came in. He retired Robinson Cano in a lefty-lefty matchup. Hard-throwing Tanner Rainey entered to face Mets stud rookie Pete Alonso, who entered the game with 15 home runs. His 16th soared just inside the foul pole -- according to an on-field call then “inconclusive” crew chief replay review -- four pitches later. Tie game.

Both relievers failed in their execution. Suero didn’t want his pitch up. Rainey did. Neither hit the proper spot.

Rainey remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth. He walked two after picking up an out. He left. Kyle Barraclough entered. His first pitch was a broken-bat bloop toward Brian Dozier. He intentionally let it drop to try to trick the Mets into a double play. Instead, it produced an out at second.

Amed Rosario hit a one-hop grounder to shortstop. He beat the throw to first for a walk-off infield single. You read that right.

So, the line for second-guessing starts at Rainey’s initial entrance with one out in the eighth inning, when the Nationals held a 5-4 lead. Why didn’t Barraclough pitch there to hold the lead and set up Sean Doolittle for the ninth?

“I liked the matchup with Rainey, with the velocity and his slider,” Martinez said. “For me, the matchup was … and he got ahead. He just didn’t get the ball up.”

Rainey returned to the mound to start the ninth. Barraclough, who has allowed seven of eight inherited runners to score this season, could have started the inning. Instead, he came in with runners on base, then lost the game. It should be noted nothing was hit hard against Barraclough. However, the outcome was the outcome.

Also, should Turner have charged the grounder to try for a short hop against the fleet Rosario?

“Decision either stay back and catch it and make a hard throw or run and kind of make a do-or-die play,” Turner said. “I guess looking back at it, you try the other one since it didn't work out. But, felt like I gave myself a chance to make the play, complete the play and get out of the inning.”

And, for the first time, the weight of fighting back only to have the bullpen lose the game -- again -- began to show in the Nationals’ clubhouse postgame when Gomes was asked about the need to properly finish games and soon.

“I think you're nailing it but I think we don't need to, kind of a -- it's happening,” Gomes said. “I mean we can't put that aside. I think it's happening we need to figure out how to do it. I think it's just a matter of keep playing. Keep playing until the game's over and not wait for that moment to happen.

“I think mostly the seventh, eighth innings start happening or when those runs start coming in we, I mean you definitely see a drop. We were still tied and you kind of saw a drop in our...but it's kind of like, because it's happening a little bit. But I think it's one of those things man, because we do come out and battle and battle and battle. I think it kind of gets tiring to say we just need that one hit, just need to make it happen more than just wait for it to happen.”

2. Erick Fedde delivered about the best the Nationals could hope for: five innings, one run, four hits, one walk, one strikeout.

He threw 61 pitches, then was removed for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth.

Fedde last started April 23 for Harrisburg. After that, he joined the Nationals as a stop-gap reliever, which convinced them to turn him into a full-time reliever this season. He hopped into the rotation for injured Anibal Sanchez to start Tuesday.

The night was all about sinkers for Fedde. Thirty-one of his 61 pitches were sinkers.

Fedde is likely to make another start because the Nationals placed Jeremy Hellickson on the 10-day injured list Tuesday (more on that below). When Hellickson returns, they will have to decide who to keep in the struggling back end of the rotation.

“He looked really good,” Martinez said. “He threw groundballs, groundballs. If he keeps pitching like that, we’re going to be in good shape. We’ve got to build him back up, obviously. But he did really well.”

3. Though it’s a low bar, things are improving for Brian Dozier.

He hit a two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to provide the Nationals a temporary lead and chase New York starter Zack Wheeler. Dozier was 5-for-12 coming into the game before his homer.

Again, this is a low bar. But for a player hitting .208, any progress is of note.

4. Trevor Rosenthal threw an inning of relief Tuesday for Double-A Harrisburg. Rosenthal walked two, threw a wild pitch, gave up a run and of his 24 pitches, just 10 were strikes.

He was though to be nearing a return to the parent club, possibly by the end of the week. The question now is if the Nationals think he needs more time.

5. Hellickson was placed on the 10-day injured list Tuesday because of a right shoulder strain. Yet, he was in center field playing long toss in the middle of the afternoon.

Hellickson said he felt discomfort in his shoulder since spring training. That prompts two questions: Why not say something prior? And, why play long toss after being placed on the injured list because of an achy shoulder?

To the first question, why now:

“Just cause it hasn’t gotten better,” Hellickson said. “We’ve been treating it every day, it hasn’t gotten better. We’ll see what rest does.”

And?

“Just [a] shoulder strain. It feels good when I’m out there. It just doesn’t feel great in between starts. I’m not waking up too good. Like I said, it’s not getting worse, but it’s not getting better. So I’m just going to rest it for a little bit.”

To the second question, why play long toss:

“That feels good,” Hellickson said. “It’s just taking a start off to give it some rest, and not that big workload on a start day. I can take one of those off. It’s just on and off. It feels good one day, not so good the next. So give it some rest and hopefully get back to 100 percent.”

Another question: Has this affected your pitching and contributed to the 6.23 ERA?

“I felt good when I was out there,” Hellickson said. “It maybe affected my command a little bit. But I felt fine. I felt fine when I was out there. I don’t think it affected too much.”

So, the discomfort has been around since spring, has not gotten better, but feels fine when he pitches and throws long-toss but feels bad in between starts, yet hasn’t influenced his outcomes.

Kyle McGowin is a possibility to replace Hellickson in the rotation while he is on the injured list.

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