By Bruce Levine–
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — How will Edwin Jackson fit in with the 2015 Chicago Cubs? Your guess is as good as his right now.
Jackson made his 2015 Cactus League debut Monday, and the 31-year-old veteran got hit hard, allowing four runs in two innings. The second inning included an error by Starlin Castro and a throwing miscue by Jackson that would have started an easy double play.
“That inning was pretty much my fault,” Jackson said. “You get your first taste of real adrenaline, and you speed it up a bit. I need to take an extra step and make a good throw to second base.”
Jackson is trying to come back from two of the worst seasons a Cubs pitcher has ever had, after going a combined 14-33 with 5.57 ERA in that stretch. Yet many people will be cheering the popular player on. Regardless of his personal failures, Jackson is tremendously supportive of his teammates and remains a favorite with them as well.
The Cubs brass must decide if it can take Jackson with them to Chicago or have to eat the $22 million left on the contract that runs through 2016.
“I know I if I go out and throw like I know I can throw, I can be as good as anyone in the game,” he said. “Where I stand? I don’t know. Only time will tell. First game of spring, there is a long way to go. I am not stressing about this, just looking for something to build on into the next game.”
One of his former teammate’s observations included the idea that as Jackson has lost some velocity on the fastball, and he hasn’t learned to compensate by changing speeds and throwing more two-seam fastballs. Manager Joe Maddon said last week that Jackson was initially rushed to the major leagues in Los Angeles without learning some of the essentials of pitching.
The Cubs have four pitchers vying for the fifth starter’s role: Jackson, Travis Wood, Jacob Turner and Tsuyoshi Wada. Having the support of his former manager in Tampa has little to do with whether Jackson remains a Cub.
“Like I have said before, Joe is a great manager but at the end of the day it’s about what I have to do myself, go out and pitch like I can,” Jackson said. “Joe can’t pitch for me, and he can have all the faith in me in the world, but I must take care of these things in my own initiative.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.