Brett Jackson is ready, but he needs an opening
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 14, 2012 10:48PM
Brett Jackson has outplayed the Cubs’ entire spring roster of outfielders, but he still might be headed to Class AAA Iowa. | Chris Carlson~AP
Updated: April 16, 2012 8:26AM
MESA, Ariz. — You know the job market’s tough when Brett Jackson can’t get a job with the Cubs.
‘‘Unfortunately, there’s just no job openings,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘Just one of those things, a timing and a numbers thing.’’
No surprise there. But who knew Jackson, one of the Cubs’ top two prospects, was going to outplay the entire spring roster of outfielders? He’s done that with the exception of matching the hot hitting of Alfonso Soriano. Of course, he’s well ahead of Soriano defensively.
But what if Jackson keeps raising his game all the way into the last days of camp as he’s facing nothing but big-league pitchers?
That’s the million-dollar question — or $54 million in the case of Soriano, $10 million in the case of David DeJesus and $6.5 million in the case of Marlon Byrd.
Already having failed to find a taker for Soriano and cash, the Cubs’ only avenue for getting Jackson on the Opening Day roster would appear to be to trade Byrd in the next three weeks.
‘‘Whether there’s a position or not, whether I start in [Class AAA] Iowa or Chicago, that’s out of my control,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘But I’m going to keep pushing the issue, keep working hard and keep playing like I play. …
‘‘You’re still going to keep pushing for them to want you more. I think they do. I think I am ready. And I think they think I’m ready.’’
Jackson’s hitting skill, power, ease in the outfield and poise have opened Sveum’s eyes more than he expected.
‘‘When you see him in person, it’s been pretty impressive, every part of his game,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘He comes to play every game. He comes to kick the other team’s butt; there’s no doubt about it. A very aggressive, confident kid who’s probably going to end up playing here a long time.’’
Even Sveum suggests he’s ready.
‘‘I don’t see why he wouldn’t be ready,’’ he said. ‘‘Maybe just [develop] the last part of his game as a little bit better two-strike hitter and not putting himself in some of those counts with swinging and missing. As far as the ability or anything, I don’t see what else has to happen.’’
Sveum to Marmol: Relax
Sveum said he gave a pep talk Wednesday morning to Carlos Marmol, who pitches Thursday after back-to-back rough outings.
‘‘I just tried to make him relax,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Everything’s fine. It was a great meeting. Nothing more than, ‘Don’t worry about this and what happened. We’ve got a lot of spring left; just be ready for the season.’ ’’
Assuming the Cubs are competitive enough to make the closer relevant, they probably don’t have the depth in the bullpen to cover for another shaky season from Marmol.