02/13/2013 4:43 PM ET
Prospect Jackson takes hitting session to heart
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- An intense week of hitting in November may help Brett Jackson become the hitter the Cubs think he can be.
Jackson and teammate Darwin Barney spent time with Cubs manager Dale Sveum, hitting coach James Rowson and assistant hitting coach Rob Deer at Fitch Park. After striking out 59 times in 120 big league at-bats -- and 158 times at Triple-A Iowa -- Jackson needed some help. His hands are lower now, and his swing is more compact.
"It has to do with using more of my top hand," Jackson said of the changes. "I'm a right-hand dominant athlete, and I have a tendency to try to overdo it a little bit with my bottom hand. If you watch swings from last year, you know my back elbow was getting really high and causing kind of like a teetering effect and making me slightly late on everything.
"Now, I'm working on just keeping my back elbow down and being shorter to the ball, amongst other things, but that's the biggest adjustment," he said.
Sveum said Jackson should see results quickly.
"I think it's going to benefit him a lot," Sveum said of the changes. "A lot of these things, you're optimistic about change and making adjustments and stuff, and as a player, you really want the games to get going because it all feels great, but how's it going to work in a game? That's the final piece of the puzzle."
After his session in November, Jackson returned home and was able to continue to work on the adjustments.
"It's become natural at this point and it's something I have to stay on top of, but every hitter will tell you that," he said. "I think the learning process is you learn what works and what doesn't and what adjustments you need to make. That's what the end of last year allowed me to discover about myself as a hitter, so I was able to make those adjustments in the offseason. I can be a force at the plate instead of battling as I did."
Sveum likes versatility Lillibridge brings to club
MESA, Ariz. -- Give Cubs manager Dale Sveum an assist in convincing Brent Lillibridge to sign with the team.
"I like to get a feel for the manager, especially in a situation like this," said Lillibridge, a non-roster invitee. "I wanted to just talk baseball. [Sveum] really sold me on so many different parts of it and was real honest with me. That's what you want from the manager and the whole organization."
Now, his wife is already scouting for a place to rent in Chicago. They know the area. He played 3 1/2 seasons with the White Sox, then was traded twice last year -- once to the Red Sox and again to the Indians.
He could be the utility player the Cubs need. Although Anthony Rizzo will be the main first baseman, he will need a day off now and then. Who will back him up? Sveum said catchers Welington Castillo and Dioner Navarro will get some playing time at first in Spring Training just in case, but Lillibridge could be the guy. It helps that he has played outfield and shortstop as well.
"I'm not going to lie to you, it gives you a huge edge in the National League," Sveum said of Lillibridge's versatility. "He's got some sock in his bat for a guy who looks like he's 150 pounds soaking wet."
In 2011, Lillibridge hit 13 home runs in 97 games, and made 22 starts at first for the White Sox when Paul Konerko was hurt and Adam Dunn was struggling.
"I still have my [first-base] glove up there just in case," he said. "Unless I stand on the base, I'm quite small over there at first base. I just want a bat in my hands. If I get a chance to swing, I'm excited. I want to help as much as possible."
Hairston at camp, excited to don Sosa's No. 21
MESA, Ariz. -- On Wednesday, Scott Hairston put a Cubs cap on for the first time in his life. He should've done so sooner. He grew up in Illinois, prepping at Naperville North High School, and his father played for the White Sox and his brother, Jerry, played for the Cubs.
Hairston, who signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Cubs on Sunday, joined the team officially for the first time Wednesday at Fitch Park.
"I was a fan of the players on the Cubs, but my dad played for the Sox, so I was a Sox fan," he said about growing up. "I used to love coming to Wrigley Field and the history, especially in the late '90s when Sammy [Sosa] was doing his thing. I sat in the bleachers a few times when he was hitting all his home runs. That was a good time to be in Chicago."
Coincidentally, Hairston will wear No. 21 with the Cubs, which also was Sosa's number.
"It's Sammy's," he said. "Who wouldn't want it? Who wouldn't want to be 21?"
He had been gaining interest this offseason from the Yankees and Mets, who were looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder, but ended up in Chicago.
"There was a lot of interest early on, but I don't think there was enough interest to make anything happen," he said. "Interest is a word that can be described in many ways. The Cubs had real interest and they made things happen. I was happy to have both New York teams want me there, but when it came down to it, the Cubs wanted me the most, and that's why I'm here."
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.