MESA, Arizona -- Edwin Jackson's first appearance of spring 2015 resulted in four Padres runs, three of them on a home run by Will Middlebrooks.
That sounds bad, doesn't it? I'm here to tell you that it really wasn't as bad as it sounds.
Jackson retired the side 1-2-3 in the first inning. Two of the outs were on fly balls, but both were routine, and he threw only eight pitches. Good start, Edwin!
In the second, Derek Norris hit an easy ground ball to Starlin Castro, which Castro booted for an error. That was followed by an easy comebacker to Jackson. Inning-ending double play coming, right?
Uh... no. Jackson threw the ball into center field for the second straight Cubs fielding error, and as sometimes happens when pitchers do this, he seemed to lose focus. He did get Jedd Gyorko to hit an easy popup to Mike Olt for the first out... which should have been the third out, and if that had happened, Jackson would have had a very nice outing.
Instead, Middlebrooks homered, and that was followed by two more singles, another popup, and a run-scoring single by Alexi Amarista. When he finally got Justin Upton to end a batting-around inning for San Diego, Jackson had thrown 27 pitches in the inning.
You know what, though? Until the errors, he looked pretty good. His mound presence was better than usual. He was throwing strikes, even through all the hitting -- he didn't walk anyone. As is usual for Jackson, he made no excuses:
#Cubs EJackson: "I know if I go out and throw like I can throw, I can be just as good as anyone in the game"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 9, 2015
More #Cubs EJackson: "Where do I stand? I don't know. We'll see. Time will tell"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 9, 2015
I joked on Twitter about scouts leaving after the home run, but in reality, I think scouts might have seen something in Jackson today that could interest their GM's. They will probably want to see him throw again.
Meanwhile, the Cubs couldn't do anything with Andrew Cashner, who threw three no-hit innings with a walk and three strikeouts. They got a baserunner when Abraham Almonte dropped a fly ball in right field and Anthony Rizzo hustled into second base in the fourth, but he was stranded.
Olt, who has been a revelation so far this spring, broke up the no-hitter (and don't think it can't happen in the spring, as the Braves did it on Sunday with nine different pitchers) with a long home run to the opposite field. Olt also walked and nearly made an amazing play on a bouncer by Amarista in the fourth inning; he fell to his knees and flung the ball in the general direction of first base, where Rizzo caught it. Too late anyway, but it was impressive to see Olt get anywhere close to first on that play.
I'd say, given what I've seen so far, if Olt continues playing like this he will be the Opening Night third baseman. Kris Bryant, who replaced him in the sixth (and likely would replace him as the starter in mid-April), walked and hit a pop fly that fell among three fielders in short center field. Bryant hustled into second with a double. We know Joe Maddon likes seeing that.
Cubs relievers did a pretty good job Monday. Kyle Hendricks (actually not a reliever, but getting time in as he heads toward the No. 4 rotation slot) followed Jackson and threw his typical game -- grounder after grounder. He allowed a double and a pair of harmless singles, one of which was the Olt play described above. The Padres' final two runs scored off Jason Motte, who allowed a home run to Yonder Alonso and two other hits in his inning. Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm gave the Padres just two baserunners over the last four innings and combined for seven strikeouts. The Cubs pitching staff struck out 12 overall.
So there were plenty of positives in the Cubs' fifth straight loss, 6-3 to San Diego. That's what spring training is about, not wins and losses. The Cubs share their winless status with the Brewers, also 0-5 after Milwaukee lost to the unbeaten (6-0) Royals today. Does that mean anything? Not really.
I have one final note and clarification on Sunday's food kerfuffle. According to Cubs spokesman Julian Green, there was no change of policy. He told me, "Personal food items have always been allowed. This was just a case where the policy was misinterpreted." That's good to know.
Tomorrow afternoon at Goodyear, Travis Wood will make his second spring start against Cleveland's Trevor Bauer. Other Cubs scheduled tomorrow: Pierce Johnson, Blake Parker, Corey Black and Joseph Ortiz. I'm not going to this game as I need a day to catch up on some things, so I'll be listening and/or watching (the game will be on MLB.tv via Sports Time Ohio) along with you.