By Bruce Levine
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — A road trip gone bad should have told Cubs right-hander Edwin Jackson it wasn’t going to be his day.
Jackson went to Google for directions to Oakland’s spring training home from the Cubs’ home of Sloan Park. It didn’t work out so well.
“It took me to Phoenix Municipal Park — that’s why I was late” he said.
The rest of the day progressively got worse for Jackson and the Cubs, who fell 14-2 to the Athletics as the pitcher was shelled for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.
It seems every spring training, teams talk about how much pitching inventory they have coming into a new season. By the ides of March, the tune begins to change dramatically for most clubs, including the Cubs this spring.
Losing both Tsuyoshi Wada and Jacob Turner in early March due to injuries hurt Chicago’s depth, as it’s down to a precious few candidates for the end of the rotation.
Enter suspect starter Jackson, the former workhorse who has been nothing short of awful during the past two seasons. He has only an 18-33 record and a 5.58 ERA over two seasons to show on his declining resume. Because of the injuries, the Cubs are suddenly hoping the 32-year-old Jackson comes around and thinking of ways not to trade him. Jackson has $22 million left on his contract.
Manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs front office have been planning to pitch Jackson and Travis Wood in some piggy-back system at the No. 5 starter spot. That plan will only happen if Jackson pitches well enough to even be considered for that role. Good health for the rest of the rotation will also determine Jackson’s role.
Looking like a pitcher without a clue, Jackson didn’t start the game due to arriving late at Ho Ho Kam Park. Entering in the second inning, he gave up five doubles and a home run as a part of the nine hits Oakland clubbed him for across those 1 2/3 innings.
“Honestly, it was one of those days they hit everything I had,” Jackson said. “I was ready to pitch despite getting here at 12:40. I think overall I have had a pretty good swing except for today.”
Clearly one bad start usually doesn’t eliminate a pitcher from competing for a rotation spot. Nonetheless, with 10 days left in spring training and aspirations of competing for the playoffs this season, the Cubs could well be looking for a new pitcher. Having lost full use of All-Star catcher Matt Wieters, the Orioles are looking for a catcher. Baltimore has contacted Chicago about Welington Castillo’s status, according to sources.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.