03/14/12 8:56 PM ET
Jackson will start season in Triple-A
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Jackson, the Cubs' first round pick in 2009, is batting .385 in eight Cactus League games. It's early, but he's been impressive.
"When you see him in person, it's been pretty impressive, every part of his game," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said on Wednesday. "He comes to play every day. He comes to kick the other team's butt, there's no doubt about it. He's a very aggressive, confident kid who's probably going to end up playing here a long time."
Is the 23-year-old outfielder ready for the big leagues?
"I don't see why he wouldn't be ready," Sveum said. "Maybe the last part of his game is [to be] a little better two-strike hitter, and probably not putting himself in some of those counts with swinging and missing. As far as the ability and everything, I don't see what else has to happen other than a little better two-strike approach."
But the Cubs' plan is for the talented Jackson to start at Triple-A Iowa. He played 48 games there last season and hit .297 with 10 homers and 13 doubles.
"It's just at-bats sometimes," Sveum said of what's needed. "Some of these guys get to the big leagues now before they get 2,000 at-bats in the Minor Leagues. You learn with more at-bats, tinkering. He's got a pretty good understanding of the strike zone. The only time he swings at bad pitches is when he has two strikes on him."
So far, Jackson has 1,133 Minor League at-bats, along with a career .292 average and .393 on-base percentage.
"One thing at the big league level, is you're going to see guys with the ability to bounce breaking balls with two strikes," Sveum said. "You won't see the same hanging breaking balls that maybe you'll see in the Minor Leagues. You'll see guys taught and understand about bouncing breaking balls, and you have to be able to lay off. It's not about hitting breaking balls, it's about laying off of them with two strikes."
Even if Jackson shows improvement, there just isn't room on the Cubs roster. They have Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus committed as the three starters. One thing Sveum has made clear is that Jackson needs to play, and being the extra outfielder on the roster won't help him.
"You don't want the guy to sit on the bench," Sveum said. "He needs to go play still. Unfortunately, there's not really an opening right now for that to happen."
Won't it be hard to break camp and leave Jackson behind?
"We have to remember that developing is just as important as anything else," Sveum said. "Unfortunately for him, there's no job openings. It's one of those things -- timing and a numbers thing. He'll spend a long time here, and part of that development plan is what it is. He hasn't spent a whole year in Triple-A, and we have to see what's happening after the halfway mark and make your decisions there."
Cubs honor former Cactus League president
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts led a pregame celebration Wednesday for former Cactus League president Robert Britton, and made a donation to the Arizona Cactus League Museum in his honor.
Britton, who was instrumental in keeping the Cubs' Spring Training facility in Mesa, passed away in October.
Ricketts, his brother, Todd, and other Cubs executives took part in the ceremonies. A flag honoring Britton was raised in center field at HoHoKam Park.
"Every game we play here will be a commemoration of Robert Britton," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said.
Britton's widow, Nanette, and some of their children and grandchildren attended the ceremonies.
"I know Robert would say, 'I don't deserve any of this -- I just sell programs,'" Nanette Britton said.
Wood needs to work on slowing down
MESA, Ariz. -- For Randy Wells, it was another good outing. For Travis Wood, it was a wake-up call.
Wells cruised through three innings, giving up two hits, on Wednesday against the Brewers. Wood served up six runs -- five earned -- on three hits and two walks, with a hit by pitch in one-third of an inning in the 10-2 loss.
After Wood's last outing, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the left-hander needed to slow things down.
"I think he's right," Wood said Wednesday. "I do get going and get going fast out there. But what happened out there today is unacceptable and can't happen."
Was the problem the walks?
"Everything," Wood said. "The walks, hit batter, pitching up. I left some balls up and they got some hits."
The obvious next question is how does Wood correct the problems.
"It's typical to say it's early, and working out all the kinks, but it's time to go," he said. "We've got to get going."
Wood, acquired from the Reds in the Sean Marshall deal, is competing for one of the two openings in the Cubs rotation. So is Wells, who now has given up three hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings. His sinker helped him in the third, when the Brewers had one out and a runner at first. He got Norichika Aoki to ground into a 3-6-3 double play.
Last year, Wells won a spot in the rotation, but was shut down after his first start on April 4 because of a strained right forearm. He did return to make 22 more starts and finished the season with a 7-6 record. The Cubs came into Spring Training with many starting pitching candidates, and the decision as to who makes the cut may come down to the final week.
"You can't think about it," Wells said. "If you do, it'll eat at you. One bad outing will get in your head. I think for the most part, these guys are pretty good talent evaluators, and that's why they're in the position they are. Guys can go out and work on things and get better each day, and it'll be a tough decision for them. We can't play the managerial game behind the scenes. When it's our turn to pitch, we pitch and we'll see what happens."
MESA, Ariz. -- Expect more roster moves next week. The Cubs have four split-squad games in a six-day stretch, then an off-day March 21. After that, the pace picks up.
"That's when you start accelerating everything," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Wednesday. "As an offense, you start doing things you wouldn't do early in spring, like sacrifice bunting, using the bullpen the way we'll use it during the season, mixing and matching out of the bullpen. That's when it starts with 10 days left."
The Cubs open the season April 5 against the Nationals.
Sveum met with Carlos Marmol on Wednesday to talk about his last two outings, which have been shaky.
"I tried to make him relax, and [told him that] everything's fine," Sveum said about his chat with the Cubs closer. "It was a great meeting. That's what it was -- it was nothing more than, 'Don't worry about all of this. You've got a long spring, and just be ready for the season.'"
Chris Volstad had a second good outing on Tuesday against the Giants, and also impressed Sveum with his hitting. Volstad singled in his first at-bat and scored.
"That was great for a first at-bat of the spring," Sveum said. "He hit a missile to left field. It ended up being the winning run. It shows you how important pitchers are to helping themselves and helping the team."
Jeff Samardzija has pitched well out of the bullpen in the past, and the Cubs do need another set-up pitcher, but if the right-hander is the best candidate to start, that's what he'll do.
"Need isn't going to dictate the decision, whether he makes the starting rotation or not," Sveum said. "Anybody's need is always starting pitching. If he proves he can handle that, it's not going to be a need because of what our bullpen needs."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.