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.