2/26/2013 3:23 P.M. ET
Villanueva's switch to baseball a wise move
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Christian Villanueva loved soccer when he was growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico. There were three or four professional teams near him he followed.
But Villanueva's father played semi-professional baseball and that inspired him. At the age of 9, Villanueva switched sports. Now, he's in the Cubs' big league camp, and on Tuesday, the 21-year-old prospect hit a solo home run against the Rockies.
Villanueva was batting .285 at Class A Myrtle Beach when he was acquired from the Rangers in the Ryan Dempster trade last July. He joined the Cubs' Class A Daytona team, and hit.250 in 25 games. For the season, he hit 14 home runs and 24 doubles.
"I'm really excited to be here, to be part of this organization and spend some time with all the big leaguers," Villanueva said. "I'm happy to be here."
Does he miss soccer?
"Not really," Villanueva said. "I like to watch it now."
Well-traveled Jackson at home with Cubs
MESA, Ariz. -- Edwin Jackson has lived in Germany, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia. He's an Army brat, and well traveled. He's also played for the Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals and Nationals. He's a big league pitcher who's been on the move.
Sometimes there's a reason players change teams so many times, and not a good one. The Cubs did their homework before signing Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal.
"I know I've moved around," Jackson said, "but I don't have a bad rap sheet on me. It's not because I've been a nuisance in the clubhouse or any altercations or any off-field incidents. Half of the time I've been moving to a team that's competing. ... As long as I know there's not a bad rap sheet behind me, then I'm definitely not worried."
He has gotten other long-term contract offers but said it wasn't the right situation or what he was looking for. Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn't think Jackson had any personality quirks that kept him on the move.
"It's not because of really anything," Sveum said. "He was always put in a position where he didn't sign a long-term contract, so he was basically trade bait all those times. That's unfortunate or fortunate for some people, depending on what happens. He got traded once, and got to the World Series and won a World Series."
Jackson made his Cubs debut with two innings against the Rockies on Tuesday. He faced eight batters and gave up two hits. Now that he has a new deal and some stability, don't expect Jackson to relax.
"I feel you can't get too complacent," Jackson said. "It definitely feels good when you know you have a chance to have some stability on a team. But at the same time you can't get too complacent where you relax. You still have to have that edge when you take the field."
The Cubs are happy so far.
"He's got that personality and that work ethic and professionalism that you want," Sveum said. "Teammates like him already. He's one of those guys who breeds what we're trying to do here, bring character in and great people and obviously guys who can produce as well."
All goes well in Baker's live BP session
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs pitcher Scott Baker, coming back from Tommy John surgery, threw his first live batting practice session this spring on Tuesday, and all went well.
Baker threw 25 pitches, and will likely have two more sessions before he appears in a Cactus League game. He could be ready by mid to late April.
Arodys Vizcaino, who also is coming back from Tommy John surgery, had a 25-pitch bullpen session Tuesday, his first, and that also went well. Vizcaino is not expected to be ready for the big leagues until later in the season.
Matt Garza, who has been sidelined with a strained left lat, could begin tossing on Thursday, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. Garza has not done any baseball activities since Feb. 17 when he ended his live BP session after 20 pitches.
Right-hander Carlos Villanueva was expected to go two innings on Monday but couldn't finish the first because of a 16-pitch at-bat against Dodgers leadoff man Dee Gordon.
"That's a manager's or starting pitcher's worst nightmare," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "You still need three outs and you're already at 15 pitches and figure you have to throw 10 more. He was actually keeping the ball down and threw some really good pitches that didn't get called that changed the whole rest of that inning around, too."
Villanueva did strike out Gordon, then walked the next two batters. One out later, Nick Punto hit a two-run single and Villanueva was lifted. The right-hander will stay in the Cubs' Cactus League rotation, and is being built up to start this spring.
• Outfielder Darnell McDonald, a non-roster invitee, has been impressive so far.
"He's obviously been swinging the bat well," Sveum said. "He's killed left-handed pitching in his career. He's in the mix for one of those spots [on the bench]. He's the ultimate professional, he really works hard and he's a great guy. We're just glad to have him in camp."
McDonald has played for the Orioles, Twins, Reds, Red Sox and Yankees, and has a career .274 average against lefties.
• Jeff Samardzija, Blake Parker, Michael Brenly and Brent Lillibridge advanced to the sweet 16 of the Cubs bunting tournament. Matches will continue this week on the back field at HoHoKam Park.
• There was no mistaking Darwin Barney's territory on Tuesday. Someone outlined the area around his locker with white tape and wrote "Barney's locker area. P.S. I won a Gold Glove." Barney, who did win a Gold Glove last season, did not play Tuesday. The culprit will likely be outed on Wednesday.
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.