Updated: June 14, 2014 10:39PM
PHILADELPHIA — The worst part about Edwin Jackson’s last five starts isn’t so much the four losses and the 25 runs he has given up.
It’s what they could suggest about what comes next. About what the Cubs’ pitching staff is going to look like once Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel — and possibly Carlos Villanueva — are traded in the next month or so.
“Regardless of who gets traded or who doesn’t get traded, the mental approach and the mentality is the same,” said Jackson, who couldn’t get the last out in a three-run fifth Saturday as the Philadelphia Phillies beat him 7-4 at Citizens Bank Park.
“Somebody getting traded here or there, you can’t use that as fuel to the fire to pitch better or try to do more. You have to stay within yourself.”
Jackson being himself was all the Cubs counted on getting when they committed $52 million over four years to a .500 pitcher who has made at least 31 starts every year since becoming a full-time starter in 2007 and whose ERA tended to be league average or better.
At the time — two winters ago — the one-time All-Star was a durable, reliable innings-eater with upside who could help stabilize a rebuilding staff into a team turnaround that was supposed to begin this season.
By last November, team president Theo Epstein admitted the baseball department had gotten ahead of itself in relation to the business department’s back-loaded promises of new revenues tied to stadium renovations and future TV-rights deals.
Last month, Jackson was pitching just well enough to raise faint hope that he could be traded this summer.
Since then, he has averaged only five innings in his five starts, going 1-4 with a 7.56 ERA.
“Early in the year, I was keeping the ball down well,’’ said Jackson, who gave up two homers, including a three-run shot by Domonic Brown that ended his outing. ‘‘Now the ball is starting to come up and over the plate. It’s just a matter of getting back to finding that rhythm early, coming out and being aggressive. I just have to go back to basics.”
Meanwhile, what will this last-place team look like on the mound once its top two performers have been traded?
Jake Arrieta looked good Friday night for seven scoreless innings, but he also has struggled with his command and lasted less than six innings in half of his eight starts. Last year’s All-Star, Travis Wood, has struggled.
And the most experienced pitcher who figures to be left, Jackson, isn’t exactly delivering optimism.
“Pretty [poor] job of executing pitches,” Jackson said of the fifth inning, in particular.
Forget whether Jackson eventually can become part of the competitive timeline in Chicago.
The more immediate question is whether he can help keep the rotation from a 2012-like abyss after the trading deadline.
Manager Rick Renteria said he hasn’t even thought about what his pitching might look like then.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it,” Renteria said.
The way things look now, he can only hope that when he gets to that bridge, he’s not tempted to jump off of it.