SURPRISE, Ariz. – Sounding Zen-like and wearing a Spiritual Gangster (yoga) T-shirt, Chicago Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson again discussed his situation with the team after his spring start on Sunday. Having rebounded from an awful outing five days earlier, Jackson gave up one hit in 4⅔ innings to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday but his demeanor wasn’t that different than it was on Tuesday when he got lost finding Hohokam Park and then got rocked by the Oakland Athletics.
“What I picked up dealing with adversity at a young age is be the same person,” Jackson said. “Not let a person know if you’re having a good day or a bad day. Just be even-keeled. Of course, you’re not going to be like that inside.
“It’s not easy to do. It comes with the game; it comes with the territory. You have to be able to handle the bad.”
Jackson has had many of those days in a Cubs uniform – where he must be seething inside but showing calm on the outside. In that regard, yoga makes sense for him. He probably needs it. And now he might have to adjust to a new role with the Cubs: middle relief. After a decade in the big leagues as a starter, it will take some getting used to. But then again, seeing his ERA rise during the last two seasons isn’t exactly easy to stomach, either.
“At this point in my career I don’t know if anything can happen where I would be disappointed unless I just get hurt and can’t play the game anymore,” Jackson said. “I’ve faced any adversity you can think. I’m going to be strong to do whatever it is I have to do.”
He might as well take the philosophical approach because he knows the only one he can be upset with is himself. The Cubs have given him every chance to rebound from his struggles, but most of the time it hasn’t happened – save a few outings similar to Sunday, when he's shown a little promise.
“The last couple years haven’t been great, but I know what I’m capable of doing,” Jackson said. “And I know my abilities. It would definitely be fun playing here with the guys and winning a lot of ballgames with these guys and contributing to winning, whatever my role is.”
An injury to Tsuyoshi Wada has opened the door for Jackson to make the roster – if it was ever in jeopardy in the first place. Owed $22 million, the team probably wasn’t just going to let him walk away. They’ll make him try to earn it.
“I’m here to help the team in any way that I can,” Jackson said.
Before Sunday's game, manager Joe Maddon said it was likely the Cubs would pick a fifth starter this week. Then they’ll have to go about telling Jackson his new role, as it would be a major upset if they tabbed him to start over Travis Wood.
And if a scout sees something in him once the season starts, he could always find himself starting somewhere else. At this point, that might be best for all parties involved. Jackson’s mop-up innings the next few months could become important for that reason.
“You expect the best, but prepare for anything that comes with it,” Jackson said. “The only time you get disappointed in the game is when you set yourself up with expectations.”
The expectations for the Cubs righty are so low, a few good innings in the middle of the game are about the most you can ask for. And if yoga or meditation teaches anything, it’s simply to control what you can.
“At the end of the day, it’s not something I worry about,” Jackson said of starting for the Cubs.
Good thing. Because it might never happen again.