Edwin Jackson starts to prove he belongs

CHICAGO -- While the Chicago Cubs are in trading mode this month, they have at least one player who was signed not necessarily to be moved but to help the team win someday.

Edwin Jackson was doing anything but winning throughout the first half of this season, calling it the “craziest start” he has ever had.

That changed on Thursday, when he shut down the St. Louis Cardinals with seven magnificent innings. He finally earned his big pay.

“No one expected me to start like this,” Jackson said after his three-hit, no-walk performance. “You can either sink or you can swim. I’m definitely one of those guys that will never give up.”

In signing Jackson to a four-year, $52 million contract last winter, the Cubs showed the baseball world they weren’t going to build their team with only draft picks and international signings. Money will be spent.

But for many observers over the first three months of this season, it was money misspent. Jackson was brutal for most of his first 11 starts. He was 5-10 with a 5.50 ERA entering play on Thursday.

But he never gave in.

“For them, it’s a 32-start season and obviously things have been coming together a lot better the last four to five starts for him,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He was really sharp against the best offense in baseball.”

If the Cubs are going to contend soon, then Jackson, Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija have to be three cornerstones on the mound. With an impending trade of Matt Garza, that trio will be asked to lead the organization moving forward.

“It’s a game of grinding it out,” Jackson said. “As long as you believe that you can turn things around.”

Jackson says he never lost confidence and never felt the need to talk with his new employers about his performance. They probably didn’t need to hear from him, either.

“I don’t think I have to do that,” Jackson said. “I just try to go out and let the actions speak for themselves. I never did lose confidence.”

Having history on his side didn’t hurt. Jackson is a slow starter. He knows it and so does the team.

“I know he’s had horrible starts, horrible spring trainings,” Sveum said.

Jackson is 17-34 in April and May, but 45-32 in June, July and August.

“He’s been the same guy the entire time,” teammate Anthony Rizzo said. “He’s a professional. He’s been through a lot with a lot of teams. A lot of adversity in his career.

“Today, all his work paid off. Hopefully this is things to come in the second half.”

And for the next three years.