3/14/2013 6:00 P.M. ET
Jackson gets positive feedback on hitting progress
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When Brett Jackson arrived in Cubs camp this spring with his new swing, he was encouraged by the progress he made. Yet no matter how the center fielder does, he was expected to open the season at Triple-A Iowa.
"I just try to make every day a work day," Jackson said Thursday, "and treat that work day like it's the most important work day. I've gotten a good amount of playing time and I'm happy with the way my work days are going. I put 100 percent in every day and I try to stay within every day. What's going to happen on April 1 is out of my hands."
What's been encouraging are Jackson's at-bats. Entering Thursday's game, he was batting .286 (4-for-14) in 12 games with one double, two triples, four RBIs, five walks, and five strikeouts. In 15 games last spring, he batted .276 (8-for-29) with one double, one triple, seven RBIs, six walks and 10 strikeouts.
"It's obviously nice to see the hard work pay off, and I continue to work hard and I think that's me as a player, that's me as a person," Jackson said. "Regardless of how my career goes, I know I put in 100 percent every day and I can go home every day knowing I can put 100 percent in.
"As far as hitting has gone and my at-bats, I was talking to [assistant hitting coach Rob Deer] the other day and I think more than 95 percent of my at-bats have been quality at-bats, and I think that's all I can control," Jackson said. "I have to keep working on having quality at-bats and that's all I can do, all I can control. I think I'll be the type of player who can help the team win. That's all I care about."
Jackson has gotten positive feedback from the Cubs coaching staff.
"This is a great atmosphere to be a player and to be a young player," Jackson said. "It's starting to be a really great culture. I'm excited with the guys who are around, and the coaching staff are guys you want to play for. That's encouraging and motivating."
Rizzo regrets Classic loss, upbeat about experience
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Anthony Rizzo will return to the Cubs' lineup Saturday after missing time due to the World Baseball Classic. Rizzo and Team Italy were eliminated from the Classic on Wednesday, losing, 4-3, to Puerto Rico.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum told his first baseman to take advantage of his day in Miami and be with his family. The two talked after the game.
"He was obviously down about losing, but he also was very upbeat about the experience he got to have and the emotions that he probably hasn't been part of yet in pro ball," Sveum said. "It was a great experience for him. He was real excited, but obviously a little down at the same time. I think he's looking forward to getting back here. I told him to spend the day with his family in Florida and be ready to go [Friday]."
Rizzo drove in all of Italy's runs on Wednesday with a three-run double in the fifth, but Puerto Rico rallied. The Italian team was an underdog, and not expected to advance to the second round.
"It's an experience that you can't replace, whether it's the Olympics or a playoff run," Sveum said. "You get in the playoffs and World Series, those are emotions and excitement that you wish everybody could have once in their life. He got to be a part of it, because they were such underdogs and to play so well and be so close, it had to be a big rush every day."
Takahashi aims for spot in Cubs bullpen
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hisanori Takahashi will make his second spring start on Saturday for the Cubs, but it's not an audition for a spot in the rotation. The Japanese left-hander is hoping to secure a place in the bullpen.
"That's what I'm aiming for and that's why I'm on the mound," said Takahashi, through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. "I think I do have an opportunity to make the team. I think I need to show what I'm good at and prove to the staff that I have a spot on the team, and I think my command, showing my pitches will be my sales point."
Takahashi, 37, isn't going to overwhelm hitters. Asked the velocity of his fastball, he smiled.
"One hundred [mph]," Takahashi said, in English.
He's kidding. Takahashi has pitched for the Mets, Angels and Pirates, appearing in 51 games last season combined, and posting a 5.54 ERA.
"There's a lot of pitchers in Japan who are like [Greg] Maddux or [Jamie] Moyer, and I fit in that type of pitching," Takahashi said. "There's a pitcher in Japan named Masa Yamamoto, and he's 47 now, but he's still a current player in Japan."
Yamamoto is left-handed, which helps his longevity.
Lefty Chris Rusin, who started Thursday for the Cubs, also is an option for the bullpen, manager Dale Sveum said.
"I'm not going to sit here and say he's out of it," Sveum said of Rusin. "He's obviously throwing the ball well. Travis Wood is in the rotation and you want to take the best guys there, and a lot of times the best guy is another left-hander in the bullpen."
On Friday, the Cubs will play an exhibition game against Team Japan at HoHoKam Stadium. Takahashi was asked for the scouting report.
"They're definitely a good team and detail-oriented," Takahashi said. "They're good at doing the little things."
Maybe they're a little jet-lagged? The Japan team arrived Tuesday night and played the Giants on Thursday.
"That's an area to attack for the Cubs, probably," Takahashi said.
• Edwin Jackson, who signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs this offseason, will start the home opener on April 8 against the Brewers.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio mapped out the rotation for the first week. Jeff Samardzija will start Opening Day, April 1, against the Pirates and be followed by Jackson, then Travis Wood, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva. Samardzija will close the Cubs' first road trip April 7 against the Braves.
• You won't see shortstop Starlin Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney very far from each other. The two hit in the same group in batting practice, they do their fielding drills at the same time, and they even have the same model glove, which Barney designed.
"They always have to be in the same group," Sveum said of his middle infielders. "They have a routine that they got into last year that was good and obviously, the way they played, you don't want to take them out of it."
• The Cubs made one roster move Thursday when they assigned pitcher Barret Loux to Minor League camp.
• Ian Stewart played in a Minor League game Thursday at the Cubs complex at Fitch Park. Josh Vitters was slated to start Friday against Team Japan at HoHoKam Stadium. Both have been sidelined since Feb. 21 with sore left quads injured in an intrasquad game Feb. 21.
• The Cubs players are already talking about the prospect of having a fishing hole at their new Spring Training complex in east Mesa.
"We might have to have a fishing tournament," Sveum said.
The facility will feature a 9,000-square-foot weight room, which Sveum said some players may want to take advantage of year-round. Sveum couldn't remember the Brewers having a weight room at all when he played for them.
"I never lifted weights," Sveum said, "so I wouldn't have known where the weight room was."
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.