Cubs tell Brett Jackson wait until next year

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Cubs tell Brett Jackson wait until next year

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 9:02 p.m.

By PatrickMooney
CSNChicago.com CubsInsider Follow@CSNMooney
The Cubs think Brett Jackson is straight out of central casting.

Hes their natural, a California dude who played his college ball at Berkeley. Hes the left-handed bat the organization is constantly searching for. Hes a good quote and he wont mind talking in front of the cameras. Hes not afraid of the bright lights.

Thats how Cubs people have talked about the 23-year-old Jackson, who could be roaming center field at Clark and Addison as soon as next season.

The Cubs made three more September call-ups from Triple-A Iowa on Tuesday reliever John Gaub, infielder DJ LeMahieu and outfielder Lou Montaez. Jackson was nowhere to be found at Wrigley Field.

That wasnt a surprise, because the Cubs had been downplaying the possibility for weeks, even though Jackson may have the highest ceiling of all their position-player prospects.

There are concerns about the 40-man roster, and starting the clock on his major-league service time. Those are decisions for the next general manager.

But Jackson the 31st overall pick in the 2009 draft is living up to the hype. Hes part of the player-development system Tom Ricketts has so much faith in that the chairman gave a new four-year contract to farm director Oneri Fleita. It wouldnt surprise anyone if Ricketts made a similar deal with scouting director Tim Wilken.

Jackson finished his second full professional season which began at Double-A Tennessee by hitting .297 with 10 homers, 26 RBI and a .939 OPS in 48 games at Iowa.

The skys the limit, interim general manager Randy Bush said. Its not out of the realm of possibility that this guy comes to camp and makes the team. Thats how quickly hes progressing.

Jackson will skip the Arizona Fall League. Hell play for Team USA and travel to Panama for the World Cup and Mexico for the Pan American Games. The hope is that a high-intensity environment, the pressure of international competition, will help him grow.

Were thrilled with his progress, Bush said. Hes getting better and better. For him to have made the jump to Iowa and perform as well as he did was outstanding. He just needs at-bats.

Hes such an interesting guy. Hes got speed and his powers already emerging. Hes patient. Hell take a walk. He brings a lot of things to the table that are pretty exciting looking forward.

Jackson wouldnt have played very much in the majors this month because right or wrong manager Mike Quade is loyal to his veterans and the Cubs are already committed to finding out about Tyler Colvin.

The Cubs also didnt want to have to protect Jackson from the Rule 5 draft because they already have to add around six players to the 40-man roster this winter. That group is headlined by Josh Vitters and Matt Szczur.

Vitters the third overall pick in the 2007 draft recently turned 22 and finished his Double-A regular season hitting .283 with 14 homers and 81 RBI in 129 games. Szczur got a unique contract and 1.5 million this season to give up his NFL ambitions and concentrate on one day becoming the true leadoff hitter the Cubs have lacked.

But no one seems to be coming as fast as Jackson, who walked around Fitch Park during spring training like he belonged. Around the clubhouse, the Cubs once saw similar traits in Starlin Castro.

He carries himself with a certain confidence, swagger, Bush said. Not in a bad way. (Its) just (understanding what hes) going to be able to do.

The outfields crowded now, but Marlon Byrd will be on an expiring contract next season (6.5 million). The Cubs have seemed willing to eat a large portion of the 54 million left on Alfonso Sorianos contract (if a taker can be found).

Colvin, another first-round pick, hasnt established himself yet. Reed Johnson could make sense on another one-year deal as the guy to mentor Jackson.

Is Jackson ready to make an impact in 2012?

Thats up to him, Quade said. We never had that conversation about Tyler Colvin before last year and what a spring he had. Im sure hes confident off what he was able to do for a little bit of time in Triple-A. Hell get a good look in spring training next year. He should. Hes earned that. But whether hes readywell see.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

Why Brett Anderson called Cubs fans ‘f------ idiots’ and loves the idea of pitching at Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. – On an October night where you could literally feel Wrigley Field shaking, Brett Anderson fired off a message on his personal Twitter account: "Real classy cubs fans throwing beer in the Dodgers family section. Stay classy f------ idiots."
 
The Cubs had just clinched their first National League pennant since the year World War II ended, beating Clayton Kershaw and playing as close to a perfect game as they had all season. Anderson kept up the entertaining commentary during the World Series, previewing Game 7 – "We can all agree that we're happy it's not Joe West behind the plate tomorrow" – and tweaking his future manager: "Aroldis (Chapman) might puke on the mound from exhaustion." 
 
In another generation, a veteran pitcher might walk into a new clubhouse and wonder about any awkwardness with a hitter he once drilled with a fastball or some bad blood from a bench-clearing brawl. But overall today's players share the same agents, work out together in the same warm-weather offseason spots and understand the transient nature of this business. When pregame batting practice is filled with fist bumps, bro hugs and small talk between opponents, it becomes trying to remember what you said on social media. 
 
"I'm kind of a sarcastic ass on Twitter," Anderson said Monday. "I kind of sit back and observe. I'm not a huge talker in person. But I can kind of show some of my personality and candor on some of those things.
 
"You look at stuff (when) you get to a new team. I'm like: ‘Wow, man, did I say anything about anybody that's going to piss them off?' But I think the only thing I said about the players is that Kyle (Hendricks) looks like he could have some Oreos and milk after pitching in the World Series. 
 
"But that's kind of the guy he is. Just the calmness that he shows is something that we can all try to strive for."
 
Anderson essentially broke the news of his signing – or at least tipped off the media to look for confirmations – with a "Wheels up to Chicago" tweet in late January. The Cubs guaranteed $3.5 million for the chance to compete against Mike Montgomery and see which lefty can grab the fifth-starter job. Anderson could max out with $6.5 million more in incentives if he makes 29 starts this season. 
 
After undergoing surgery to repair a bulging disc in his lower back last March, Anderson made three starts and didn't earn a spot on the NLCS roster.  
 
"I obviously wasn't in the stands," Anderson said. "Supposedly from what I was told – it could be a different story – but there was just some beers thrown on where the families were. I'm going to stick to my family and my side.  
 
"I wasn't calling out the whole stadium. (It wasn't): ‘Screw you, Cubs fans.' It was just the specific (incident) – whoever threw the beers on the family section. Everybody has their fans that are kind of rowdy and unruly.

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 
 
"That just happened to be a situation. But you like those people on your side. I played in Oakland, and they had some of the rowdiest fans. In the playoffs, it seemed like ‘The Black Hole' for the Raiders games.
 
"You have your bad seeds in every fan base. When people are rowdy and cheering on their team and have one too many beers, the next thing you know, you're throwing them.
 
"Just visiting (Wrigley), it's a fun crowd, because it's such an intimate setting and you feel like they're right on top of you and it's so loud." 
 
Imagine the matchup nightmare the Dodgers could've been if their pitching staff hadn't been so top-heavy and manager Dave Roberts could've confidently gone to someone other than Kershaw, Rich Hill or closer Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had made Anderson the qualifying offer after a solid 2015 season – 10-9, 3.69 ERA, 180-plus innings, a 66.7 groundball percentage – and he grabbed the $15.8 million guarantee. 
 
Anderson turned around and did the knock-on-wood motion at his locker, saying he felt good after completing a bullpen session with catcher Willson Contreras at the Sloan Park complex. Anderson is a Tommy John survivor who's also gone on the disabled list for a stress fracture in his right foot, a broken left index finger and a separate surgery on his lower back.
 
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Anderson said. "When I'm healthy and able to go out there and do my work, I feel like I'm a pretty good pitcher. I don't think I've ever been able to put everything as a whole together in one season. I've had some good spots – and some good seasons here and there – but hopefully I can put it all together and have a healthy season and do my part."
 
The Cubs are such a draw that Shane Victorino signed a minor-league deal here last year – even with more than $65 million in career earnings and even after a fan dumped a beer on him while he tried to catch a flyball at Wrigley Field in 2009.   
 
Anderson wanted to play for a winner and understood the organization's pitching infrastructure. He saw his pitching style as a match for the unit that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year. He was even intrigued by Camp Maddon and the wacky stunts in Mesa.  
 
"It's obviously an uber-talented group," Anderson said. "(It's also) seeing the fun that they're having. I'm more on the calm and cerebral side, but I think doing some of the things that these guys have in store for me will hopefully open me up a little bit and break me out of my shell. 
 
"'Uncomfortable' is a good word, especially for me. You don't want to get complacent. You don't want to get used to rehab. You want to go out there and do new things and try new things and meet new people and have new experiences. All things considered, the Cubs offered the best mix of everything."

After playoff bullpen issues, Cubs again see Pedro Strop as a late-game force

After playoff bullpen issues, Cubs again see Pedro Strop as a late-game force

MESA, Ariz. – Inside Wrigley Field’s state-of-the-art clubhouse, the Cubs posted a blown-up image of the 2015 Sports Illustrated cover where Pedro Strop is high-stepping next to Kris Bryant down the third-base line, the mosh pit awaiting at home plate.

Between his tilted-hat look, chest-pounding celebrations and overall joy for the game, Strop sets an example for the younger guys in the bullpen and the Latin players in the clubhouse. Strop has been so valuable that Jake Arrieta could have never thrown a pitch in a Cubs uniform and Theo Epstein’s front office still would have considered the Scott Feldman trade with the Baltimore Orioles an absolute success.  

Yet when the long rebuild reached its apex – and manager Joe Maddon searched for World Series answers – Strop had already been marginalized in the bullpen. A freak injury – Strop heard a pop and tore the meniscus in his left knee while trying to slide and field a groundball in August – bumped him from his role as the seventh- or eighth-inning stopper.  

“It was a little difficult,” Strop said. “After I came back from my surgery, it was a different situation. But it’s something that you got to get used to and understand the situation, understand how deep our bullpen is and just go and fight whenever they ask you to.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal.”  

During Sunday’s media session, Maddon dismissed any issues with Strop (2.85 ERA) or Hector Rondon, the former 30-save closer who strained his right triceps last summer and didn’t quite get his timing down for the playoffs. Down 3-1 in the World Series, Maddon summoned Aroldis Chapman to throw 97 pitches combined in Games 5, 6 and 7 against the Cleveland Indians.

“Listen, it’s not a lack of trust,” Maddon said. “(Strop) just got hurt. And when you get hurt like that at that time of the year, it’s hard to play catch-up. When guys get injured in-season and you get to the moment where you’re trying to win a championship, you got to put like personal feelings aside on both sides of it, whether you’re managing it or playing.

“I have nothing but trust. My God, the threat is when you have him, you want to use him too much, always. And the same thing with Ronnie. I talked to Ronnie about that – I don’t want to put him in a position. I think Rondon got hurt last year because part of it was my greediness on using him too much in the early part of the season.

“You really have to battle against that when you get guys that good. You want to use them all the time. (I have) a tremendous amount of trust in both of those guys. It’s just a matter of utilizing them properly and keeping them healthy.”

[MORE: What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez]

Since the middle of the 2013 season, Strop has notched 84 holds for the Cubs, putting up a 2.68 ERA and a 0.984 WHIP to go with 254 strikeouts in 211-plus innings. At a time when a $10 billion industry is reassessing the value of high-leverage relievers, Strop will make $5.5 million this year before hitting the open market.

“You never know,” Strop said. “I would love to repeat the championship season and win another one here before I hit free agency. Hopefully, they want to bring me back. I really like the city of Chicago. I love the fans and I love my team and the coaches.

“After this season, it’s going to become business, so hopefully we can put something together.”