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RHP Jackson hopes to bring winning touch to Cubs


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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Braves' Dansby Swanson admits he hates facing Stephen Strasburg

Braves' Dansby Swanson admits he hates facing Stephen Strasburg

After winning the NL Cy Young award in back-to-back seasons, the New York Mets' Jacob deGrom holds the title of undisputed best pitcher in the NL East—if not the entire major leagues.

So when asked at the Braves' annual winter FanFest, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman were quick to admit that they hated facing deGrom more than any other pitcher in baseball.

But shortstop Dansby Swanson has another nemesis: Stephen Strasburg.

Dansby Swanson is not a fan of Stephen Strasburg from r/baseball

Swanson is 6-for-27 (.222) with one home run and 15 strikeouts against Strasburg, making it understandable why he'd hate facing the Nationals starter.

Unfortunately for Swanson, Strasburg signed a seven-year deal with the Nationals in December. The Braves infielder isn't going to be able to avoid facing him anytime soon.

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Ron Darling believes Nationals are vindicated for Strasburg shutdown

Ron Darling believes Nationals are vindicated for Strasburg shutdown

The Nationals rose to contention in 2012, emerging from the depths of the NL East standings to establish themselves as soon-to-be perennial contenders behind a young core highlighted by back-to-back No. 1 overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

But heading into that campaign, Washington announced that Strasburg would be placed on an innings limit in what was his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. It was a highly scrutinized move at the time, as the Nationals won 98 games but went into the playoffs without their young phenom.

MLB Network analyst and former major-league pitcher Ron Darling joined D.C. Sports on Thursday to talk about the Strasburg shutdown, which came in at No. 17 in NBC Sports Washington’s Big Twenty series that highlights the 20 biggest sports stories in D.C. over the first 20 years of the decade.

“I remember just thinking to myself, ‘What a shame that Washington’s not going to have him in the postseason,’” Darling said. “But more importantly, I just tried to concentrate on—there is no team in baseball that is gonna make a decision that is gonna hurt the player and hurt their ball club.

“They just felt, because he was coming off an injury, that that was the best thing to do. Remember, they decided in Spring Training that they were going to hold him to an innings limit and I really commend them. I think it was one of the most difficult things the organization ever had to do. But they were brave and stood their ground.”

Darling himself was told in 1992 that he should undergo Tommy John surgery, but instead he elected to reinvent himself as a pitcher and alter his mechanics to put less stress on his elbow. However, Darling was in the midst of his age-31 season at the time, while Strasburg was just 22 when he went under the knife.

Although he believes putting Strasburg’s health first was the right thing to do, Darling does think the Nationals could’ve handled the situation better from a public relations standpoint.

“The only mistake I thought, was going into the season in Spring Training, they gave the innings limit,” Darling said. “I always thought there was no reason really to do that because as he got closer and closer to that innings limit, of course the media and fans and his teammates started to anticipate that shutdown so I think it put a lot of pressure on the organization, on the player, on his teammates.”

Seven years after the Nationals voluntarily ended Strasburg’s season, they won the World Series behind the strength of their starting rotation—led by Strasburg. Washington won all six games he appeared in during its 2019 playoff run. The right-hander posted a 1.98 ERA and 11.6 K/9 over 36 1/3 innings in the postseason after leading the NL with 209 regular-season innings and placing fifth in Cy Young voting.

“I don’t know if winning the World Series vindicates it,” Darling said. “I think what it has done, though, and proven, is that they’ve put Stephen Strasburg not only in a place to have an amazing career, but now he’s on a trajectory to be a Hall of Fame-kind of pitcher.

“Yes, it’s going to be four or five more years of great excellence that he’s shown, but that’s where the vindication comes, is that he’s had a great career, his trajectory is going to be a Hall of Fame career and I think the ironic part about it is that since the Strasburg shutdown, his performance in the postseason is about as good as anyone to ever toe the hill. So that’s to me where the vindication is.”

Washington has been rewarded for its patience with its prized starter. After signing a seven-year, $245 million extension at the Winter Meetings in December, Strasburg ensured that he’ll be chasing a plaque in Cooperstown as a member of the Nationals.

He mentioned several times at his subsequent press conference in D.C. the trust he built with the organization, trust undoubtedly established by how the team prioritized his health over everything early in his career. It may have been an unpopular decision in 2012. But if the Nationals had the chance to go back and do it all again, they’d make the same choice every single time.

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