“I’m playing every day like I belong,” Jackson said Sunday morning before the Cubs took on the San Francisco Giants. “I’m aware of what they told the media but that doesn’t deter me from playing the way I want to play and thinking that I deserve to be on this team. A lot of that is out of my hands but I’m going to do everything in my power to play the way I know I can play.”
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said earlier that Jackson was ticketed for Triple-A Iowa to start the year. After reworking his swing in the offseason Jackson got off to a hot start in spring training drills and intra-squad games. Then in his Cactus League debut on Saturday he hit two triples. If that continues will it change Sveum’s mind?
“I don’t think it changes anything,” Sveum said.
Analysis: There is simply no reason to rush Jackson, especially as he tries to perfect his swing. He struck out 59 times in 120 at-bats last year, and one good spring doesn’t eliminate all that. The Cubs aren’t contending for a title, have a veteran in centerfield on the last year of his deal and if Jackson is ready for the big leagues he’ll show it in the minors first. If he’s on the Anthony Rizzo timetable, that’s not a bad thing right? Expect Jackson in Chicago by mid-to-late season and then it could be his job for good.
Matt Garza is saying all the right things about not returning from his lat injury too soon.
“I want to be out there as fast as I can, but at the same time I have to make sure I’m ready to go before something flares up during the season,” Garza said.
Analysis: The one part of Garza’s stance on the injury that doesn’t hold water is that maybe it all happened because he was “ahead of schedule, anyway.” But now he’s behind. Don’t expect him to pitch in a Cactus League game for at least 10 days. That might still put him on pace to be ready in April, but coming off the elbow injury anything that takes him off what was supposed to be his spring schedule is a concern.
Soler and Baez’s efforts
Both Jorge Soler and Javier Baez had impressive spring debuts on Saturday as they entered against the Angels as mid-game replacements. Soler doubled while Baez also had a hit and moved a runner over.
“(Soler) keeps showing more and more poise every day,” Sveum said. “He’s not a premeditated swinger for a young guy. He gets a good look at the ball before he swings the bat. Baez hit a missile, did a nice job at shortstop.”
Analysis: No matter what Baseball America says (they have Baez ranked the No. 1 Cubs prospect, Soler No. 3) it’s Soler who is the best prospect in the organization. Sveum has used the word poise several times regarding the 20-year-old Cuban, and that’s on top of his incredible athletic body and his strong and quick bat. He keeps impressing and is closer than any of the young players to getting to the major leagues -- at least right now.
Cubs at the plate
Cubs hitters are off to a good start as the organization tries to revamp its philosophy from top to bottom. After a patient approach in intra-squad games -- they took eight walks in five innings on Friday -- the Cubs put up 14 hits against the Angels on Saturday.
“The at-bats have been quality,” Sveum said. “(We’re) laying off pitches low in the strike zone and taking advantage of anything that’s been elevated so far.”
Analysis: Look for pitch selection to be a continuing theme in the Theo Epstein era. And as more young players enter the system and get time with Cubs coaches, a uniform hitting philosophy will emerge. Stay off the low, borderline pitches and drive the high ones. If it all works, seeing a lot of pitches, hitting home runs and taking walks will become the staple of the Cubs.