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Breaking down Brett Jackson's new swing

3/4/2013

Here are a few notes from Sunday's Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers split squad game at Hohokam Park in Mesa.

&bull; There's been a ton of coverage of Brett Jackson's new swing, which makes sense as he'll have to make some significant adjustments if he's ever going to make enough contact to be an everyday player in the majors. I saw a little bit of Jackson's swing Sunday afternoon, and while it is different, I'm not sure how it's going to be better, especially for making contact.

Jackson used to have a very short stride without much of a load, and his hands, which have always been quick, would always seem to start forward from a different position. Now, he's definitely more consistent, starting from a consistent spot with a slightly deeper load, but his stride is very long, leaving him with a wide base before he even gets his hands started, and producing a swing that looks unnaturally long for him. The stride doesn't get his weight transfer started early enough, and he tends to roll that front foot over through contact. Everything we liked about Jackson before, from the speed to the athleticism to the bat speed to the arm, is still present, but I wish I could tell you I thought this new swing would solve his contact problems.

&bull; Javier Baez (the No. 31 prospect in baseball) hit behind Jackson and smoked a home run to left shortly after fouling a ball off his foot that looked like it might knock him out of the game. His at-bats were a little longer than they were in Arizona Fall League -- not that that's a high standard, but any sign of patience is progress for him.

&bull; Edwin Jackson started for the Cubs and had his usual stuff but no command, resulting in an ugly line score, but nothing I'd specifically be worried about in the first week or so of spring training. If he's still pitching like this in the second half of March, we can worry.

&bull; Cubs reliever Kyuji Fujikawa threw an eight-pitch inning Sunday, working at 90-92 mph from a high three-quarters slot, throwing just one splitter at 80 mph (although it had good bottom) and a pair of short, slow mid-70s curveballs that didn't impress. There's deception here, as with a lot of pitchers who come from Nippon Professional Baseball, and that splitter should be a swing-and-miss pitch for him.

&bull; Trey McNutt also threw for the Cubs, sitting at 92-94 mph but without much command. He looked heavier than the previous time I saw him, in the 2011 AFL, and while the stuff remains above-average to plus -- he flashed an above-average slider -- if he can't throw strikes, it won't matter what role he's in.

&bull; On the Brewers' side, Johnny Hellweg threw two innings, hitting two batters while throwing 93-96 mph without much effort. His slider was mostly sharp at 83-85 mph, although I think hitters will pick it up early out of his hand, and he has to finish it out front to avoid throwing hangers in the low 80s that will run directly into left-handed hitters' bats.