Coming off an 18-loss season in the first year of a four-year, $52 million deal, Edwin Jackson wasn’t the most popular player on the Chicago Cubs roster this spring, especially amongst fans. That ire has reportedly spread to within the organization itself after the right-hander threw nothing but fastballs in his last start.
According to Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, first-year Chicago manager Rick Renteria took notice of the pitch selection, but declined to go any further into the matter with reporters.
“Well, I saw a lot of fastballs being thrown,” Renteria said, “and I’ll just say that I noticed it.”
Wittenmeyer said that the Cubs have been working extensively with Jackson on his fastball command this spring, an issue that plagued the veteran last season, when he threw fastballs at his highest rate since 2009, with the lowest average velocity since 2005 – a troubling trend for Chicago pitching coach Chris Bosio.
“I think you have to kind of allow some flexibility, I guess, in what he’s trying to do,” Renteria said. “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.”
So far this spring, Jackson is 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in two starts. He has allowed seven hits, including two home runs, in just five innings of work. That’s a clip of almost 13 hits per nine innings pitched – a very high number – although, granted, it’s still fairly early in the spring.
When asked about the decision, Jackson sounded like it was a spur-of-the-moment decision that he – and he alone – made, without consulting Renteria, Bosio or any member of the coaching staff.
“It’s nothing that I’d been planning on during the week. It was one of those things where we came out and I said, I’m going to throw all fastballs today and we’ll see how it turns out,” Jackson said.
Jackson also said that he “wasn’t worried about runs” in the start, adding that he wanted to stay aggressive with his heater against hitters.
Currently, Jackson is slated as the club’s third starter, behind lefty Travis Wood and right-hander Jeff Samardzija, but if he fails to deliver, questions regarding his role in the Cubs’ rotation are likely to emerge. Renteria has made it clear he expects results from this team and won’t accept poor performances simply because the rest of the baseball world has this club pegged for another 90-plus loss season.
Last season, then-manager Dale Sveum got into an exchange with Jackson in the dugout after he was taken out of a game, raising questions at the time of both Sveum’s control over the clubhouse and Jackson’s mentality toward his role in Chicago.