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Edwin Jackson looks to bounce back in 2nd season with Cubs

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MESA, Ariz. - Edwin Jackson's first season with the Chicago Cubs was a dud.

Now, they just hope Jackson can live up to his career norms — if not every dollar of his $52 million, four-year contract.

The 30-year-old right-hander went 8-18 last year, the most losses in the majors, with a 4.98 ERA while carrying a modest load of 175 innings.

His career averages are 11-13 and a 4.47 ERA. Jackson's best season was 2009, when he went 13-9 for the Detroit Tigers with a 3.62 ERA in 214 innings.

With the Cubs, Jackson maintains the pressure of the big contract didn't get to him.

"It was just a crazy year," he said. "I don't think I was about to pull my hair out, or stressing or pressing over games. It was just a crazy year where things didn't go the way I'd like. It just so happened to be the first year of a contract.

"I'm sure people expected more. But I expect more."

Jackson doesn't blame the results on Wrigley Field, either.

"The park plays bigger than you expect more times than not," he said. "You can catch an unfortunate day when the wind is blowing out. But for the most part, it plays big."

So what was the problem?

"I think I just had an inconsistent delivery," he said.

Jackson knows his way around the baseball block. He debuted in 2003 with the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 19; the Cubs are his eighth team.

"Every year you want to improve on every aspect of the game," Jackson said. "But for me, more important is consistent mechanics."

So, as he starts spring training in 2014, he said: "I'm working on consistency. Staying consistent with all the pitches. Stay in the same arm slot, stay at the same speed, so everything looks the same."

Jackson threw off a mound for the first time Saturday. Pitching coach Chris Bosio, who was among the most interested spectators, said, "Edwin pitched extremely well in some games, in others not so good.

"It was a tough year overall for the team. We have to look ourselves in the mirrors and ask everybody to get a little better. That's the message we're sending to everybody, including (fellow starters) Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija."

Also watching Jackson throw was new manager Rick Renteria, who judged the session "pretty good."

"He started a little up in the zone, then all of a sudden, he finished down, working multiple quadrants of the plate. Those are the simple things that he's going to have to do to get himself back to executing pitches," Renteria said. "More than anything (he needs to) keep looking forward and focus on his job on a daily basis, pitch by pitch.

"In his work, it's got to show. Today it did. He finished really strong."

Renteria spoke with Jackson in the off-season.

"Edwin has a really good outlook for this season. He's talked about putting last year behind him," the manager said.

NOTES: Renteria was upbeat about Arodys Vizcaino's bullpen session. Vizcaino, who pitched in 17 games for Atlanta in 2011, was considered one of baseball's top pitching prospects until he underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2012. The Cubs still thought enough of him to acquire him at the trade deadline for Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm. Vizcaino had a setback in 2013, when he underwent arthroscopic surgery on the elbow. "He's got some skill," Renteria said. "The ball really comes out of his hand easily. It's got late life. His breaking pitches have some bite to them. He's got some presence on the mound." But because of his injury history, Renteria declined to put a timeline on when he might be available or where he fits on the Cubs' pitching staff. "We're going to continue to be cautious, make sure he's doing well. I don't have a crystal ball," Renteria said.

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