MetsBlog and SNY.TV intern Steve Hirsch is bringing back the out-of-town Q&A at the start of each new series to learn about the opposition from local reporters and bloggers.
This week, Hirsch talks with Chicago Cubs beat writer Patrick Mooney of Comcast SportNet Chicago. The Cubs come to Citi Field tonight for the first meeting of a three-game series.
Hirsch: Edwin Jackson (2-8, 5.76 ERA), who has not lived up to his expectations thus far in 2013, gets the start on Friday against the Mets. Is there anything about his performance so far that suggests he might improve as the season progresses? Or is the organization worried that Jackson’s struggles are here for the long term?
Mooney: The Cubs gave Jackson a four-year, $52 million contract because he’s been very durable and they looked at their rotation after this season as Jeff Samardzija and four question marks. (Matt Garza is in his walk year and Travis Wood has since established himself as a solid piece of the puzzle.) Jackson has struggled big-time, though the Cubs say his peripheral numbers suggest he hasn’t been that bad. They’re not going to move him to the bullpen or do anything dramatic, believing he’ll make 30-plus starts for the seventh consecutive season.
Hirsch: A lot of Met fans were disappointed that the team was not able to retain Scott Hairston after last season because of his ability to hit for power. Yet, he is only hitting .154 with 5 HR and 15 RBI in 2013. What’s your take on Hairston’s decreased production this season, particularly given the hitting-friendly confines of Wrigley Field compared to Citi Field?
Mooney: It’s taken awhile for Hairston to heat up, and maybe that will change along with the weather and more at-bats this summer at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs signed him to crush left-handed pitching, and he hasn’t done that yet, hitting .147 with five homers in 68 at-bats. He’s not going to take the heat, though, because this is a team-wide issue. The Cubs have struggled to score runs and put together big innings all season, waiting for Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to bust out of their slumps.
Hirsch: Just like the Mets are hoping prospects like Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud will help make them competitive again, the Cubs have a prospect of their own, OF Jorge Soler, who the team is hoping will make an impact once he reaches the Major League level. What is your scouting report on him, and is it possible that he comes to the big leagues before the season ends?
Mooney: The Cubs would love to have the kind of power arms the Mets have assembled, but most of their system depth now revolves around position players like Soler, Javier Baez and Albert Almora. Soler is raw after missing almost two years of development time while defecting from Cuba, establishing residency and getting clearance to sign a $30 million contract. He’s a potential five-tool outfielder, with freakish athletic gifts, but still learning the game at advanced Class-A Daytona. He’s viewed as a core piece for maybe 2015 and beyond.