The Cubs dealt 2009 first-round pick Brett Jackson to the Diamondbacks late Thursday for Minor League right-handed pitcher Blake Cooper.
Cooper, 26, was 4-2 with a 3.57 ERA in 41 relief appearances combined for Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno this year. He was named to the 2014 Southern League All-Star team, posting a 1.85 ERA in 24 games with Mobile. However, he had a 6.00 ERA in 17 games at Reno, giving up 16 earned runs on 25 hits and 17 walks over 24 innings at Reno. A 12th-round pick in 2010, Cooper was 16-15 with 16 saves and a 3.27 ERA in five Minor League seasons.
Jackson, who turned 26 on Aug. 2, was the 31st player taken overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Injuries slowed the outfielder, limiting him to 61 games last season at Triple-A Iowa.
In 81 games at Iowa this year, he was batting .210 with eight doubles, four triples, five homers and 20 RBIs. Jackson was called up to the big leagues in August 2012, but batted .175 in 44 games. His strikeout totals were high; in 2012, he fanned 158 times over 106 games at Iowa.
The move opens a spot on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. According to the Arizona Republic, Jackson will be assigned to Triple-A Reno.
— Carrie Muskat
Kyle Hendricks picked up his league-leading 10th win and Brett Jackson hit a two-run triple and a RBI single in Iowa’s 5-3 win over Omaha in the first game of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday. Hendricks scattered eight hits over six innings and struck out seven. It was his 11th quality start in 16 outings. In the second game, Jackson hit a walk-off three-run homer in the eighth of a scheduled seven-inning game to give Iowa a 7-4 win. In the two games, Jackson hit for the cycle, going 4-for-6, with a double, a triple and a home run, with six RBIs. Kris Bryant added a RBI double in the second game, and was 2-for-6 in the two games. Iowa now has 23 comeback wins and improved to 5-0 in extra inning games.
In the second game, Jackson hit a walk-off three-run homer in the eighth of a scheduled seven-inning game to give Iowa a 7-4 win. In the two games, Jackson hit for the cycle, going 4-for-6, with a double, a triple and a home run, with six RBIs. Kris Bryant added a RBI double, and was 2-for-6 in the two games. Iowa now has 23 comeback wins and improved to 5-0 in extra inning games.
Tennessee scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat Montgomery, 6-5. Elliot Soto had three hits and one RBIs. Zach Cates picked up the win in relief.
Daytona totaled five hits in a 3-0 loss to Brevard County. Jose Rosario took the loss, giving up two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Kane County scored six runs in the third inning to beat Peoria, 6-1. Ben Carhart hit his second home run, a three-run shot in the third. Jeimer Candelario drove in two runs.
Jesse Hodges hit two home runs and drove in six runs to lead Boise to a 14-3 win over Tri-City. Boise totaled 19 hits in the game, the most since they collected 20 against Yakima in 2009. Jeffrey Baez had three hits, including a two-run homer.
Gleyber Torres had three hits and one RBIs in Mesa’s 6-4 win over the Reds. Eloy Jimenez and Ricardo Marcano each had two hits.
Kyle Hendricks struck out nine and gave up three runs over seven innings in Iowa’s 6-3 win over New Orleans. Logan Watkins hit his first home run and Arismendy Alcantara had three hits, and was a home run shy of the cycle. Josh Vitters had two RBI doubles and was batting .293.
In injury news, the Iowa Cubs placed outfielder Brett Jackson on the disabled list with a strained right oblique and added infielder/outfielder Jonathan Mota from Tennessee.
Jake Arrieta moved closer to returning to the big leagues with a 5 2/3 innings rehab outing for Tennessee. The Smokies beat the Generals, 7-2. Arrieta gave up one run on three hits and one walk, striking out two. John Andreoli drove in three runs and Jae-Hoon Ha had two RBIs.
Tayler Scott gave up four runs over 4 2/3 innings in Daytona’s 5-1 loss to Dunedin. Marco Hernandez had two hits.
Tyler Skulina gave up two runs over five innings in Kane County’s 6-2 win over Bowling Green. David Bote, Danny Lockhart, Shawon Dunston and Trey Martin produced consecutive RBI hits in the ninth.
Carlos Pimentel struck out 10 over six innings to help Iowa beat Nashville, 6-1, on Wednesday. Pimentel gave up a solo homer in the second, but that was the only blemish. Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters each homered, and Javier Baez doubled and scored on Chris Coghlan’s sacrifice fly.
C.J. Edwards gave up one run on five hits over 5 2/3 innings in Tennessee’s 3-1 win over Chattanooga. Rafael Lopez hit a two-run double. Armando Rivero struck out three over 1 1/3 innings for his second save.
Albert Almora was 2-for-4 with two doubles in Daytona’s 1-0 loss to Dunedin in the first game of a doubleheader. In the second game, Dan Vogelbach hit his first home run of the season, a three-run blast, but it wasn’t enough as Daytona lost, 6-4.
Jacob Rogers hit a second inning solo home run in Kane County’s 7-4 loss to Fort Wayne. Shawon Dunston Jr. had two RBI.
* Christian Villanueva hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the sixth to back Tsuyoshi Wada and lead the Iowa Cubs to a 4-1 victory over Nashville on Monday. Wada retired 20 of the 24 Sounds hitters he faced, struck out eight and walked one over 6 2/3 innings. He did serve up a second inning home run to Eugenio Velez.
Nashville starter Ariel Pena took a no-hitter into the fifth, when Iowa finally scored. Brett Jackson snapped an 0-for-12 start with a triple and he scored on Eli Whiteside’s single. The Iowa Cubs rallied off reliever Kyle Heckathorn with two outs in the sixth. Matt Szczur walked and Chris Coghlan singled to set up Villanueva’s first home run.
Blake Parker struck out two in the ninth for the save. The I-Cubs stole four bases. On Tuesday, the two teams square off again as Chris Rusin makes his second start against Mike Fiers.
* Michael Lorenzen struck out seven over seven scoreless innings as Pensacola beat Tennessee, 3-2. Lorenzen had a perfect game through four, and Dustin Geiger broke up the no-hit bid with a single to start the fifth. Geiger also hit a home run in the ninth. Smokies starter Matt Loosen gave up three runs on six hits over five innings.
* Rock Shoulders had two hits, including a double, and two RBI but it wasn’t enough as Daytona lost 5-4 to Brevard County. Jeimer Candelario also had two hits, including a triple, and one RBI.
The Cubs optioned outfielders Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Zac Rosscup, and infielder Christian Villanueva, to Triple-A Iowa, and assigned catcher Rafael Lopez, outfielder Mitch Maier and pitcher Armando Rivero to Minor League camp on Tuesday.
Vizcaino, who has not pitched in a big league game since 2011 because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, had been a nice surprise this spring, throwing 98 mph fastballs. In three Cactus League games, he gave up two hits and struck out two over three innings.
“We’re still following the plan and want to make sure he gets his innings in a controlled environment and kind of ease him back in,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. “He needs to get in more game situations and things of that nature and make sure he can handle it all and see where it’s at.”
If Vizcaino continues to progress, he’ll likely be one of the first relievers promoted to the big leagues.
“He’s got a great arm and needs to continue to command his fastball and do all the other things that the game asks him to do,” Renteria said. “If there’s a need, he’s a nice guy to have. The depth he gives us is real nice.”
Jackson, the Cubs’ first-round pick in 2009 who led the Pacific Coast League in 2012 in strikeouts, was 4-for-20 this spring with 10 Ks.
“I don’t worry too much about his strikeouts because I think there’s a lot of damage comes with his stick,” Renteria said. “If his approaches are good and he gets pitches he can handle, it’s going to be good. He does have the ability to recognize the zone pretty well and I think I saw that this spring. He plays nice center field, and he’ll work in the corners, too. He’s a pretty good looking player.”
Vitters, another Cubs’ first-round pick who is switching from infield to outfield, was 2-for-17 with 11 strikeouts, but Renteria saw lots of positives.
“He had some really good at-bats, missed a couple balls,” Renteria said. “That’s the thing about these guys having to get their at-bats now so they can get their work. He’s been working diligently in the outfield.”
— Carrie Muskat
Anthony Rizzo hit two home runs, driving in three runs, but it wasn’t enough as the Cubs lost, 9-4, on Saturday to the Mets in Las Vegas in split-squad games for both teams. Rizzo did not have a home run prior to Saturday’s game, and is now batting .417.
“It doesn’t matter,” Rizzo said of the lack of homers earlier. “It’s nice to connect with one, and run around the bases, and feel what that feels like again. I’ve just been pleased the last week or so with the progression at the plate and my approach. It’s been a good progression and where I want to be at this time.”
In Surprise, Ariz., Brett Jackson hit a three-run home run and a two-run single in the ninth to lift the Cubs to a 6-5 win over the Royals. Marcos Mateo, recently returned from the Diamondbacks, picked up the win in relief.
* On Sunday, the Cubs will play split squad games, with Chris Rusin getting the start in Las Vegas against the Mets, and Travis Wood facing the Indians at Cubs Park in Mesa. Wood is set for the rotation, and will be slotted second, while Rusin is battling for a spot. In Rusin’s last outing, he held the Giants hitless over three innings. The Cubs-Indians game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Chicago commercial free, and also available on Cubs.com.
— Carrie Muskat
Justin Ruggiano drove in three runs, including two on his second spring homer, Junior Lake smacked a tie-breaking RBI and a sacrifice fly, Brett Jackson had a two-run pinch-hit single, and Anthony Rizzo hit a RBI triple for the Cubs who rallied to beat the Brewers, 10-8, on Sunday. The game drew a Cactus League-record crowd of 14,770. The attendance topped the previous league mark of 14,680 set March 1 at new Cubs Park.
* Right fielder Ryan Sweeney had to leave the game after chasing Jeff Bianchi’s double because of soreness in his right knee. Sweeney was listed as day to day.
* Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013, gave up two runs on three hits and two walks over three innings in his second Cactus League start.
“I’m much happier with this [start],” Hendricks said. “I’m just disappointed that we go out and score two runs and then I go out and give them both back up. That will all work itself out as I get out there more and am more consistent with my mechanics.”
Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun was greeted by a chorus of boos from the sellout crowd during his two at-bats. Hendricks struck Braun out to end the first, but the Brewers outfielder doubled in the third.
“He got me on the second at-bat, but that wasn’t a bad pitch,” Hendricks said. “His barrel stays through the zone very well. I could’ve thrown a different pitch to him — but it was a good pitch, and he’s a really good hitter. He’s going to get his hits.”
Did Hendricks hear the crowd?
“You could hear those boos,” Hendricks said. “All the Brewers fans were trying to cheer over them.”
* Jeff Samardzija will make his third spring start on Monday when the Cubs travel to Scottsdale to face the Giants. Samardzija will likely pitch at least four innings. In his last outing against the Rockies, he gave up three runs on four hits over three innings. So far, he has not walked a batter, which is good. The right-hander is working on being more efficient with his pitches. The game will be broadcast on Cubs.com.
— Carrie Muskat
It took a clinic with 9 and 10 year old kids to help Brett Jackson find joy in baseball again.
Jackson is coming off a year he’d like to forget. Once one of the Cubs top prospects, the outfielder struggled with injuries, was demoted, and finished with a .210 average, and 121 strikeouts in 95 games.
“It took a lot of hard work and a lot of soul searching,” he said Sunday. “I’ve never been more excited to be back in Spring Training, I’ve never been more excited to be back on the field. When you’re not playing well, the game’s not fun. I wasn’t having fun last year — I was hurt and struggling.
“I rediscovered that fun a little bit this offseason,” he said. “I feel I’m in the best physical shape I’ve been in and the best mental state I’ve been in in a long time. I’m very confident coming into camp and am excited to be part of this new regime.”
Part of the change in attitude occurred because of the clinic that he and his childhood friend, Lars Anderson, conducted in Berkeley, Calif.
“I want to get back to that, I want to get back to playing for fun and playing for the guys and playing for the team,” he said. “So much has been on performing on an individual level that I’ve forgotten the importance of why I play and the reason I play. I’m back to have fun and enjoy it and to win.”
The Cubs have had high expectations for Jackson since selecting him in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of California, Berkeley. He batted .297 in 2011 at Triple-A Iowa, but the next season, hit .256 and struck out 158 times in 106 games.
Don’t ask him about the strikeouts any more.
“It’s something I’m not going to acknowledge moving forward,” Jackson said. “I can’t put a finger on it. The last couple years have been a search for finding myself at the plate and overcoming the pressures I was putting on myself. The strikeouts were in the corner of my mind — being told I was striking out too much. Not to put the blame on anyone but myself. I’m confident in the adjustments I’ve made. That’s something I can improve on.”
The Cubs gave Jackson an offseason program that included improving his mental approach to the game. He addressed that as well as looking at videos of successful players. He hasn’t reverted to his old swing, but it’s more natural now.
“The changes I was trying to make last year had all the right intentions and all the right cues for me to become a better player,” he said. “However, I was fighting my nature, I was fighting who I was as a natural athlete and I think that made my time at the plate a struggle.
“Having said that, I’m thankful for last year and I’m thankful for what happened and overcoming the injuries I had and the challenges I had at the plate and on the field. I feel the best I’ve felt moving into Spring Training.”
— Carrie Muskat