MESA, Ariz. — Cubs manager Rick Renteria planned to have a chat with Edwin Jackson after watching the $52 million pitcher freelance his way through Friday’s Cactus League start.
“He threw 50 pitches, 50 fastballs,” Renteria said Saturday morning. “He wanted to work on his fastball.”
That deadpan line drew some chuckles inside the Cubs Park media workroom. Jackson said pitching coach Chris Bosio had “no clue” about this plan.
“You’d have to ask Boz about that,” Renteria said. “I’m not aware of that.”
Jackson got hit hard during a 7-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Mike Aviles’ two-run bomb in the first inning set the tone. Jackson gave up three runs on four hits in three innings, pushing his Cactus League ERA to 7.20. Jackson said he mixed in changeups, sliders and curveballs during his first start this spring and wanted to go in a different direction.
“I came out with a plan to throw all fastballs,” Jackson said, “and keep an edge and just learn to trust the fastball in some situations instead of just automatically going to an offspeed pitch.
“This is the time in spring training where you kind of have the luxury to go out and do stuff. So I felt all right overall. I’m just working on (keeping) the ball down in the zone and locating a little better.”
In the first year of a big contract, Jackson went 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA and led the majors in losses. Ex-manager Dale Sveum frequently talked about Jackson needing to throw “with conviction.” Two guys who rarely lose their cool got into a dugout shouting match captured on television at Milwaukee’s Miller Park last September.
Renteria had a theory about Jackson’s 50-for-50: “As we talk about fastball command, maybe he was just thinking: ‘You know, I’m gonna just really try and hit the spots.’ He got into a little trouble yesterday. Obviously, his pitches were a little elevated.
“But I think that you have to kind of allow some flexibility, I guess, in what he’s trying to do. In his mind’s eye, he had a particular idea of what he wanted to do, so he tried to go ahead and do it. He did it for three innings.”
Sveum’s direct approach didn’t always go over well inside the organization. The new manager has tried to be very careful while discussing players with the media.
“I’ll just say that I noticed it,” Renteria said.
Renteria, who’s been billed as a great communicator, wants to hear Jackson’s explanation.
“I’ll probably talk to him and have a conversation about it and clarify what the process was actually,” Renteria said. “That doesn’t hurt anybody if you just talk about it.”