It’s not yet time to write off Cubs’ Brett Jackson
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 27, 2013 11:03PM
Brett Jackson, A.J. Ellis
Updated: March 28, 2013 10:17PM
MESA, Ariz. — It’s been a quiet spring for Brett Jackson. Too quiet for the former Cubs’ first-round draft pick who made all kinds of noise in spring training a year ago.
Mostly for the outfield prospect, the silence is about an inflamed throwing shoulder that sidelined him much of the month before he played in a minor-league game Wednesday, with at least two at-bats scheduled in Thursday’s final big-league spring game.
But it also seems to be a quiet determination that has toned down the volume of a camp that seemed more about the newest flavors of the month, Javy Baez, Jorge Soler — with a cameo or two from last year’s first-rounder, Albert Almora.
Jackson will open the season at Class AAA Iowa. But if anybody’s writing off the athletic outfielder after a big-league debut with too many strikeouts last August and September, they might be in for a surprise at some point this summer.
Anybody remember what Anthony Rizzo did last year after a miserable 2011 big-league debut with the San Diego Padres?
“That would be the perfect world with Brett,” manager Dale Sveum said of the way Rizzo tore up AAA pitching and then finished the season with a strong second half in the big leagues that has him locked into the No. 3 spot in the Cubs’ lineup going into this year.
Sveum likes what he’s seen in Jackson’s adjustments to an overhauled swing he helped give the kid over the winter.
“[His] confidence is sky high,” Sveum said. “Obviously, he has the speed and all that, but there’s something there when that swing gets honed in. That would be a special player.”
Jackson isn’t as quick to jump on the Brett Jackson bandwagon as he was maybe a few months ago — certainly a year ago — preferring a more stoic, apparently more businesslike outward approach.
“I’m not evaluating things like that, but I’m happy with the way I’ve gone about my work,” he said. “The injury was unfortunate, but you keep moving forward. I’ll build off the spring I was having.”
Maybe it has something to do with guy not long ago tabbed as the Cubs’ top prospect losing a few notches to the Baezes and Solers and Almoras.
Maybe it’s the taste of the big leagues, the punch in the mouth from big-league pitching, that has him quietly determined to punch back.
“I’m confident in my abilities to help this ballclub win,’’ he says, “That’s what I want. … I think I’m a player that will help this team win.”
Maybe even this year’s Rizzo?
“It’s all about seizing opportunity, and Rizzo seized his opportunity last year,” Jackson said, “and when you seize your opportunity, you stick.’’
Scouts from other organizations are mixed about the former Cal-Berkeley center fielder — debating whether he’s a potential All-Star in the making or a potential fourth outfielder. Nobody seems to doubt he’s a big-leaguer.
But if this looks like a crossroads season for the fifth-year pro, it also would seem to hold a lot of opportunity for a franchise assembling the young core players it expects will lead to October.
Players such as Rizzo.
“Yeah, it’s a parallel — with any guy that ever makes it,” Jackson said. ‘’It’s all about seizing your opportunity. And Anthony’s a good example, given he was 22 last year and he did that.
“I’m almost 25, so it’s a little different. But where I can take something from what Anthony did was how he approached his year last year and how he seized his opportunity.”
FELDMAN CLOSES IN: Right-hander Scott Feldman made his final start of the Cactus League season Wednesday as he nears his Cubs debut April 5 in Atlanta. Feldman will stay back in Arizona to pitch against minor-leaguers Sunday and will join the club in Pittsburgh for the opener Monday.
BABY DADDY STARLIN: Shortstop Starlin Castro left the team to be with his girlfriend for the birth of their first child. He is expected to rejoin the team Friday or Saturday in Houston, Sveum said.
NEW GUY: The Cubs claimed right-hander Guilermo Moscoso off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. Although he was added to the 40-man roster, he is not considered in the mix for the final bullpen job. “Organizational depth,” manager Dale Sveum said.
ROSTER SET (PROBABLY): Right-hander Cory Wade was informed he won’t make the club, giving left-hander Hisanori Takahashi the final bullpen job, pending a possible acquisition in the final few days before the opener. That sets the opening roster, with catcher/infielder Steve Clevenger as the final bench player — again, pending a possible last-minute move.
JACKSON IN ACTION: Outfield prospect Brett Jackson, sidelined the last few weeks with shoulder inflammation, got two hits and drew a walk in six plate appearances in a minor-league game. He is expected to get at least two at-bats in the Cactus League finale Thursday before joining Class AAA Iowa.
HO-HO-SO-LONG: The Cubs on Thursday play their final spring home game ever at Mesa, Ariz., site where they’ve played spring games since 1979. Next season they open a new, state-of-the-art facility near the Mesa-Scottsdale city line.
ON DECK: Mariners at Cubs, HoHoKam Stadium, 2:05 p.m., CSN, cubs.com (audio). Carlos Villanueva vs. Hisashi Iwakuma.