When Edwin Jackson left the NL East champions in 2012 to sign with one of the worst teams in baseball, he envisioned helping the Chicago Cubs turn some heads in what is expected to be another tough season on the North Side in 2013.
He'll begin play with his eighth team in 11 years when he takes the mound against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night at PNC Park."I've been on a lot of teams that you look on paper, nobody expected you to do anything and you end up going to the World Series or making the playoffs," Jackson said after finalizing a four-year, $52 million deal with Chicago in January. "It's definitely one of those teams where it's a few pieces away from being where you want to be."
The right-hander went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA for Washington last year and has pitched in the last two postseasons, including winning the World Series with St. Louis in 2011.
A playoff appearance with the rebuilding Cubs seems unlikely, but Jackson is excited to be a part of the process. This is his second stint in Chicago, having pitched for the White Sox for parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
"The team that we have right now, we can go out and win ballgames and have fun and definitely have the city of Chicago behind us," he said.
Jackson is 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA in six career starts versus the Pirates. He struck out nine in four innings in his final spring training start Friday.
"We've got to get that out of him on a day-to-day basis," manager Dale Sveum told the team's official website.
Jackson will look to help the Cubs begin a season 2-0 for the first time since 1995 after they defeated Pittsburgh 3-1 on Monday. Starlin Castro and Welington Castillo had two hits apiece while Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw in the first inning."I don't really remember the pitch or where I hit it or whatever," Rizzo said. "It was just kind of blacked out there for a second but it was nice to get the win and get (started) on a good note."
Alfonso Soriano went 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts, and he may have a tough time getting going Wednesday. He's 5 for 41 (.122) with 12 strikeouts against scheduled Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez , marking Soriano's worst batting average versus any pitcher he's faced more than 35 times.
Rodriguez (12-13, 3.76) went 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts versus the Cubs last season. He made 21 starts with Houston before being traded to Pittsburgh in July.
The left-hander is coming off a solid performance in the World Baseball Classic, going 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA in two starts for the Dominican Republic, which won the championship.
"He definitely got himself prepared for the Classic," pitching coach Ray Searage told the team's official website. "We were keeping track of him, and he got himself ready a month earlier."
Rodriguez has been known for beginning seasons well, posting a 2.95 ERA in 33 career April starts.
"It's very important that you get off to a good start, and it's not surprising at all out of Wandy," shortstop Clint Barmes said. "He's got very good stuff, and when he's on, he's tough to handle."
Andrew McCutchen , who hit .360 with four homers versus the Cubs last season, doubled for one of Pittsburgh's three hits Monday.
|March 31, 2013||Ian Stewart||15-Day DL||Strained left quad|
|March 31, 2013||Matt Garza||15-Day DL||Strained left lat|
|March 31, 2013||Scott Baker||60-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|March 27, 2013||Arodys Vizcaino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Darwin Barney||15-Day DL||Left knee laceration|
|March 03, 2013||Matt Garza||Day-to-Day||Strained left lat|
|March 26, 2013||Brandon Inge||15-Day DL||Right scapula soreness|
|March 22, 2013||Francisco Liriano||15-Day DL||Fractured right forearm|
|March 22, 2013||Charlie Morton||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Jeff Karstens||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|March 20, 2013||Chase d'Arnaud||60-Day DL||Left thumb surgery|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Wandy Rodriguez 's fastball had abandoned him just in time to potentially ruin an otherwise fabulous night.
There were no such problems with his curveball.
Rodriguez struck out Brent Lillibridge on a knee-locking full-count bender with the bases loaded in the seventh, and the Pittsburgh Pirates ' revamped bullpen closed out a 3-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.
The veteran left-hander allowed just two hits over 6 2-3 innings, walking one and striking out six, none bigger than the 76 mph curve he threw to Lillibridge to end a 10-pitch battle with one down.
"He's a pro," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's a pro's pitch. No kid is going to throw that pitch."
Tony Watson came in for Rodriguez and recovered from a 3-0 hole to retire pinch hitter Alberto Gonzalez . Watson then worked the eighth and Jason Grilli pitched a perfect ninth for his first save since being promoted to closer in the offseason.
Andrew McCutchen smacked an RBI double for the Pirates. Starling Marte and Gaby Sanchez also drove in a run, more than enough for Rodriguez on a frigid night.
Not that Rodriguez paid any attention. He wore shirt sleeves on a night temperatures dropped to the low-30s shortly after the first pitch. He appeared to warm up as the game wore on. All six of his strikeouts came over his final three innings.
"It was cold but then the game started I didn't care about that," Rodriguez said through a translator. "I wore the shirt sleeves because it let my arm feel loose."
Edwin Jackson gave up two runs in five innings but lost to the Pirates for the first time in seven career starts. The Cubs produced just two singles and only put a runner on third once.
"We haven't gotten a hit yet with men in scoring position in two games, so we've got to get better at that," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said.
The 34-year-old Rodriguez helped the Dominican Republic to the World Baseball Classic title last month, going 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA in two starts. He carried the momentum forward in his first April start for someone other than the Astros.
Expertly mixing his breaking ball with a pinpoint fastball, Rodriguez kept the Cubs off balance all night.
"He had his stuff today," Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "He was working both sides of the plate to most of the guys. He didn't give in there with the bases loaded. We fought there in the seventh and just didn't come up with it."
And unlike the opener - when the Pirates couldn't take advantage of a steady performance by A.J. Burnett - the Pirates gave Rodriguez some help.
Pittsburgh took its first lead of the season when Garrett Jones led off the fourth with a single and McCutchen followed with a double to the corner in left. McCutchen came home when Gaby Sanchez 's sharp grounder rolled under the glove of shortstop Starlin Castro .
Rodriguez cruised until the seventh, when his command temporarily abandoned him. He drilled Rizzo in the shoulder, gave up a single to Alfonso Soriano and pelted Welington Castillo in the knee to load the bases with one out.
Lillibridge stepped in and nearly gave the Cubs the lead. Twice Lillibridge drilled a Rodriguez fastball down the left-field line. One landed inches to the left of the chalk. The other sailed just wide of the foul pole. Rodriguez took advantage of the reprieve by dropping in the curveball, a pitch that was so unexpected Lillibridge's bat never left his shoulder.
"That's closer-esque," said Grilli, who was watching from the bullpen. "Every starter has to have that moment, that big moment in the game where you're going to throw a 3-2 breaking ball. That was a big, big pitch."
Marte gave the Pirates some wiggle room with a single in the bottom of the seventh that plated Clint Barmes .
Watson and Grilli took care of the rest.
The 36-year-old Grilli, closing for the first time in his journeyman career, entered to the powerful chords of the song "Whipped" by Pearl Jam. He retired the Cubs in order in the ninth, striking out Nate Schierholtz looking to end it. Grilli celebrated with a fist pump as fireworks exploded behind him.
"My heart was beating a little faster, but controllable," Grilli said. "Facing the heart of the order, I've done that before."
NOTES: Pittsburgh LHP Jeff Locke pitched six innings in an extended spring training game on Tuesday. Locke is Pittsburgh's fifth starter and will make his season debut on Sunday in Los Angeles. ... Sveum reiterated Carlos Marmol remains the team's closer. Marmol struggled during Monday's 3-1 victory and was pulled after giving up a run and two hits while retiring just one batter. ... The series wraps up on Thursday. James McDonald (12-8, 4.21 ERA in 2012) starts for Pittsburgh against Chicago's Travis Wood (6-13, 4.27). ... McCutchen swiped second in the sixth for his 100th career stolen base.