The Cubs didn’t give Edwin Jackson $52 million to dress up the product or make some winter headlines.
The Cubs believed he had growth potential across a four-year deal, young enough and durable enough to be here when the team’s supposed to be a contender. And there was nothing but wide-open space after Jeff Samardzija in the 2014 rotation.
Jackson made his Wrigley Field debut in a Cubs uniform and got a taste for the elements. The 40,083 fans jammed in for the 98th home opener here. The rain in the morning gave way to sunshine and surprising 60-degree weather for a postcard afternoon. The wind howling out to right field at 24 mph.
Jackson didn’t make a great first impression during Monday’s 7-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. But he’s supposed to be a long-term piece for the rebuild. This will be the undercurrent of the entire season.
“You can only have so much patience,” manager Dale Sveum said of the fans before his team fell to 2-5. “Obviously, they were great through some hard times last year and understanding the process of what’s going on in the organization. There’s only so much you can take, especially when you have some of the best fans in the country.
“It’s not just Chicago. We have a following around the country. The patience has to give way sometimes. That’s just the nature of the beast.”
Jackson finally has a home after pitching for seven different teams, but he’s still making adjustments. He walked in a run in the first inning and then watched Martin Maldonado lift a ball into the right-field corner for a three-run double. He didn’t want to make any excuses about the weather.
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“Everybody has to go out and play in the same conditions,” Jackson said.
Sveum said Jackson changed the grip on his fastball sometime after the first inning and noticed a difference. Jackson managed to last six innings, giving up only one run across his final five, and he’s someone the Cubs will be counting on every fifth day.
“I just went to a little different mechanics, something that I felt more comfortable with, something that allowed me to just go out and feel free,” Jackson said.
The biggest free agent signed so far by the Theo Epstein administration is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA through two starts. But Sveum isn’t worried about someone who’s been remarkably consistent – 10 or more wins in each of the last five seasons and at least 30 starts in each of the last six seasons – or a player needing a good start and wanting to live up to that contract.
“You guys think of that. I don’t think of that,” Sveum said. “You take away a windblown popup to right field with the bases loaded and it’s a heck of a game he pitched.”