Jackson could be next Cubs call-up


Jackson could be next Cubs call-up

The day after the trade deadline signaled a clear shift in focus for the Cubs. After trying to showcase their players to contending teams, the next two months will be auditions for 2013.
If the Cubs are looking for a jolt of energy after trading away several popular veterans, Brett Jackson is waiting at Triple-A Iowa. The front office and the coaching staff are already thinking about it.
There were discussions leading up to Tuesdays deadline. There were meetings scheduled for after Wednesdays 8-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field, and during Thursdays off-day in Los Angeles.
That happens to be Jacksons 24th birthday. The sense is that the Cubs are trying to accelerate the process of figuring out what they have really got in the 2009 first-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley.
I dont know if there is any so-called risk involved in it, manager Dale Sveum said. Everybodys always worried about the failure part instead of the guy coming up here and maybe being a better player in the big leagues than he is in the minor leagues.
Its stuff worth thinking about. Its something were really dwelling over right now what were going to do the next month before the September call-ups.
Jackson is an athletic outfielder who began the day hitting .253 with 15 homers, 25 stolen bases and an .814 OPS and 152 strikeouts in 391 at-bats.
Everyone looks at that big number, but Jackson fits Theo Epsteins vision of a well-rounded player who may not be spectacular in one area but still makes contributions across the board.
The Cubs president says you shouldnt fixate on the strikeouts and overlook Jacksons overall game.
With Jackson, the question becomes now primarily (about) his development, Epstein said, and what buttons we can maybe push to help get him to that next level, as far as that one issue that still faces him as a player.
Epstein mentioned the individual player plans every prospect in the organization received this season. There are boxes to check before being promoted as well as a loophole.
There are other instances where youre actually looking for a change of scenery, Epstein said. Youre looking for some sort of change to actually trigger further development. So theres no hard-and-fast rule for every players promotion.
Jackson turned it on last season after being promoted from Double-A Tennessee and actually put up better numbers at a higher level. People throughout the organization have noticed his sense of confidence and how he acts like he belongs.
The strikeouts are a problem, Sveum said, but on the other hand sometimes players just get to the big leagues and they hit better. You cant even explain it.
Hanley Ramirez I remember when we had him in Boston. He never put up any minor-league numbers and the next year hes in the big leagues and he wins Rookie of the Year.
Some guys struggle with the third deck in the stadium and other guys perform a lot better with the third deck. Its (difficult) predicting how guys are going to handle this kind of atmosphere."
Ramirez must be some sort of urban legend around the Red Sox. Because while Kevin Millar was trying to earn a roster spot with the Cubs in 2010, he was asked about Ramirez at a time when Starlin Castro was opening eyes in spring training.
The funny thing about Hanley is he didnt put up great offensive numbers (in) Double-A, Millar said then. He stepped up to the big leagues and then turned into a beast.
At the big-league level as weird as it sounds it becomes easier. When I say that, you get the better equipment, the better field, better lights.
Certain kids (get) better at the big-league level, and Hanley Ramirez was that guy.
In 2005, Ramirez hit .271 with six home runs and 52 RBI in 122 games for the Portland Sea Dogs. He exploded after being traded to the Florida Marlins in the Josh Beckett deal, which was engineered in part by future Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer.
Ramirez had that breakout season in 2006, batting .292 with 17 homers, 59 RBI, 51 stolen bases and 119 runs scored in 158 games.
No ones saying that Jackson is going to duplicate that performance. But it sounds like the Cubs are talking themselves into letting him take a shot.

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Kyle Schwarber goes ‘Star Trek,’ launching home run out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue

Where the Cubs needed a Javier Baez basket shot to beat Johnny Cueto last October – the swing that might have changed the entire direction of their World Series run – Kyle Schwarber left no doubt with this one.

Schwarber launched Cueto’s 91-mph fastball out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue on Tuesday night, setting the tone in the first inning of a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants with a mammoth home run that Statcast measured at 470 feet.

“Whoa, it got small fast,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s almost like when you used to watch ‘Star Trek’ when it came on and the Enterprise would just fly by the screen and get really small. It kind of had that Enterprise-esque look to it. It was there – and then it was gone.”
Cueto, the funky right-hander with the dreadlocks, rocker steps and quick pitches, is now dealing with blisters on his middle and index fingers, which may partially explain his 4.64 ERA and San Francisco’s 20-27 record.  

Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo jumped Cueto first pitches in the second and fourth innings, with balls landing in the right-field basket and right-field bleachers as the Cubs (23-21) played perhaps their most complete game this season.

Schwarber’s batting average will read .186 on the big video board the next time he steps into the box at Wrigley Field. But Ben Zobrist’s production as a leadoff hitter could make Schwarber more comfortable and settled in the No. 2 spot. And teams still have to account for Schwarber’s thunderous left-handed power (seven homers) and overall patience (25 walks and 4.22 pitches per plate appearance).

“It’s a continuous process,” Schwarber said. “I’m still going to work every day and trying to figure this thing out. I’m going to go up there every day and be confident.”

Joe Maddon explains his ‘defensive foot fetish’ and what Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field

Joe Maddon explains his ‘defensive foot fetish’ and what Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field

Joe Maddon went Full Larry David while trying to explain what the Cubs need to see from Ian Happ in center field.

“I’m into feet, man,” Maddon said. “I just like good feet. I don’t have a foot fetish, other than defense. I have a defensive foot fetish. I admit to it.” 

And with that, Maddon got up from his chair and walked out of the Wrigley Field interview room after Tuesday night’s 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants, saying: “You can’t top that.” The only thing missing for the Cubs manager in that moment was the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” theme music.

Maddon gave credit to bench coach Dave Martinez and the team’s scouting reports for Happ’s sliding catch, which took a leadoff hit away from Brandon Belt in the seventh inning of Jon Lester’s complete-game masterpiece.     

“The guy’s really confident,” Maddon said. “Now I’ve seen some things we need to work on fundamentally out there. And I’ve already talked to Davey about it. And I know Happer’s going to work on that to make it even better. But he was positioned well, I thought, by our guys. He was in the right spots.”

If Happ needs work on reading swings and running routes, remember that the Cubs drafted and developed him as an infielder/outfielder with Maddon’s versatility ideals in mind. Actually, the Cubs went offense first with the ninth overall pick in 2015, fast-tracking a switch-hitter who needed only 26 games with Triple-A Iowa.       

While Happ didn’t exactly appreciate or fully understand where the knocks on his defensive game came from out of the University of Cincinnati, he will be in the lineup when he puts up a .323 average and a 1.126 OPS through his first nine games with the Cubs.    

“Just saw a couple little things I would like to see him address and get better with,” Maddon said. “Again, I’m being nitpicky right now, because I want him to be really good at this. His arm’s fabulous. He throws really well. Yeah, I mean, he could be really good out there.”