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Edwin Jackson expected to provide stability for Cubs

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher EdwJacksthrows before first inning an exhibitispring training baseball game against Colorado Rockies Tuesday Feb. 26 2013

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Edwin Jackson throws before the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Colorado Rockies Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

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Updated: February 27, 2013 12:34PM



MESA, Ariz. — Los Angeles to Tampa Bay, Detroit, Arizona, Chicago’s South Side, St. Louis, Washington and now Chicago’s North Side?

That’s nothing for a kid who grew up going from Germany to Louisiana, back to Germany, then Montgomery, Ala., and Columbus, Ga.

‘‘I’m a military brat. I’m kind of born on the fly,’’ said big-ticket free agent Edwin Jackson, who made his Cubs debut in a spring win against Colorado on Tuesday.

‘‘That’s the only life I know.’’

Which only adds slightly more intrigue to the big question — for him and the Cubs — of: What now?

In a big-league career that began with the Dodgers in 2003, Jackson is finally pitching for the first time with a multiyear contract, a four-year, $52 million deal that indicates he’s being counted on to help start that “foundation for sustained success” team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer like to talk about.

“I’m not trying to come in and take over any ship. I just come in and go about my business,’’ said the laid-back veteran, who has made friends and found an easy fit in the clubhouse in less than three weeks in camp.

‘‘It definitely feels good when you know you have some stability on a team, but at the same time, you can’t get too complacent to where you let yourself relax.’’

So why all the teams with no stays longer than the 2½ seasons he spent with the payroll-conscious Rays during his pre-arbitration years? Manager Dale Sveum says it’s because Jackson turned down multiyear deals at other places, and Jackson said that was true in one or two cases.

What seems certain is it’s not for the classic bad-in-the-clubhouse reasons other guys might bounce around, with Sveum calling Jackson the kind of “character” guy they want the team culture to reflect.

‘‘I know I’ve been moving around, but I don’t have a bad rap sheet on me,’’ he said. It’s not because I’ve been a nuisance in the clubhouse. It’s not because of any altercation or any off-field incidents. Half the time I’ve been moving, it’s been to a team that’s been competing to get further.’’

Which gets back to the what-now question.

‘‘You look at his numbers, and they just keep getting better and better and better,’’ said Sveum, who seems to expect a breakout from Jackson in the next year or two.

‘‘People forget Edwin Jackson was rushed to the big leagues and had to learn. He didn’t pitch hardly at all in high school, didn’t pitch much in the minor leagues and got to the big leagues quick. It’s kind of coming together a little bit more now.’’

The front office looks at Jackson as a valuable guy if he stays healthy and produces to his career trend line, which has generally improved since getting out of the American League East.

“When a 29-year-old with a very consistent track record of being a solid, effective, 200-inning-a-year, mid-rotation starter emerges, and is available at a relatively reasonable cost,’’ Epstein said, ‘‘we felt like it made a lot of sense.”

Never mind the impact he might have this year, or in 2015, when the Cubs think they might be ready to turn a serious corner in rebuilding.

Signing Jackson (or Anibal Sanchez, if they could have done that) made sense if only because they had no idea whether anybody dependable besides Jeff Samardzija would be returning to the rotation.

Put all the reasons together, and it has the potential for putting a target on the back of the highest-priced free agent Epstein has signed for the Cubs as the fan base gets less patient the longer the rebuild takes.

‘‘Pressure’s what you make it,” he said. “If there’s a target or not, I don’t know. All I can do is go out and worry about what I can control. Everything else is pretty much, it is what it is. Do I have pressure on me? I don’t feel like I have pressure on me. I don’t feel like I have to go out and try to overdo anything. They brought me here for a reason, and as far as I’m concerned, everybody’s working on bettering themselves. And that’s what I plan on doing.’’



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