What to watch: Cubs at Pirates

What to watch: Cubs at Pirates
April 3, 2013, 9:15 am
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Tony Andracki

First pitch: 6 p.m. (Immediately following SportsTalk Live on Comcast SportsNet. Cubs Postgame Live with hosts David Kaplan and Todd Hollandsworth will air at the conclusion of the game.)

On the mound: Edwin Jackson vs. Wandy Rodriguez

Edwin Jackson, the biggest free agent acquisition since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the front office, will make his Cubs debut. Jackson, 29, inked a four-year, $52 million deal this winter. The 6-foot-3, soft-spoken righty is a 10-year MLB veteran, having gotten his start as a 19-year-old with the Dodgers. The Cubs are Jackson's eighth team, and he has never stayed with one team more than three years.

[MORE: A look inside the mind of Theo Epstein]

Jackson carries a 70-71 career record with a 4.40 ERA and 1.44 WHIP spanning more than 200 starts. He was 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA and 1.22 WHIP last season for the Washington Nationals and put up a career-high 8.0 K/9. With Matt Garza on the disabled list, Jackson is filling the role of the Cubs' No. 2 starter.

Rodriguez, 34, has made a career of living under the radar, with four straight years of at least 30 starts, averaging 12 wins, a 3.47 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over that span. The Pirates traded three prospects for the veteran southpaw just before the deadline last summer and he went 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts for Pittsburgh.

Today's storyline: How will Jackson fare in his first Cubs start?

The Cubs went hard after pitching this winter, having made an offer to starter Anibal Sanchez for a five-year deal worth more than $75 million. Sanchez re-signed with the Tigers, and the Cubs moved on to Jackson. It may have been a blessing in disguise for the Cubs, as Jackson's numbers look similar to Sanchez's and the price tag was almost $30 million less. The Cubs needed starting pitching, and they got some. Jackson's deal runs through 2016, so there's every reason to believe he will still be a part of the rotation when the Cubs' front office plan takes shape.

[RELATED: Samardzija's fast start ends with closer questions for Cubs]

Lineups

Cubs
1. Dave Sappelt CF
2. Starlin Castro SS
3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
4. Alfonso Soriano LF
5. Scott Hairston RF
6. Welington Castillo C
7. Brent Lillibridge 3B
8. Alberto Gonzalez 2B
9. Edwin Jackson P

Pirates
1. Starling Marte LF
2. Garrett Jones RF
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Pedro Alvarez 3B
5. Gaby Sanchez 1B
6. Neil Walker 2B
7. Russell Martin C
8. Clint Barmes SS
9. Wandy Rodriguez P

What else to watch for

The Cubs are over .500 for the first time since 2011 following an Opening Day win that saw Jeff Samardzija toss eight shutout innings and Anthony Rizzo slug a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw. Starlin Castro also collected two hits, stole a bag and played solid defense at shortstop. Samardzija won't pitch again for a few more days, but will the other Cubs building blocks continue to make an impact?

Also, this is what the Cubs' lineup will look like against most left-handed starters, with David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz getting a rest in the outfield, replaced by Hairston and Sappelt, a pair of lefty mashers. Even when Darwin Barney returns from the DL, Lillibridge figures to get most of the starts at 3B against southpaws, as Luis Valbuena and Ian Stewart (also injured) both hit left-handed.

The last word

The Cubs were up 3-0 heading into the ninth inning Monday, as the Pirates totaled just three baserunners through eight innings. But Carlos Marmol came in and after recording an out, the closer hit Andrew McCutchen, gave up an RBI single to Pedro Alvarez and walked Gaby Sanchez. Manager Dale Sveum promptly pulled Marmol, allowing James Russell and Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa to shut the door and bail Marmol out. If the Cubs get into another save situation, it will be interesting to see how Marmol responds.