Jackson Striving for Consistency

When the Chicago Cubs traded for starting pitcher Matt Garza in the off-season, the organization had to part with some of its top young talent.

Chris Archer, who was the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year and touted by many as their top overall prospect, and Brandon Guyer, the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year, were the two most notable prospects traded away.

The 2011 season hasn't gone as the Cubs had hoped, with a number of starters spending time on the DL and the team entering play Wednesday mired in an eight-game losing streak that has dropped them to fifth place in the NL Central. Already this season, the organization has called up some of its minor league talent with the hope they can contribute at the major league level.

Players like outfielder Tony Campana and infielder D. J. LeMahieu have been promoted, but the one name many Cubs fans keep wondering about is outfielder Brett Jackson, the Cubs' first-round draft pick in 2009 who is currently patrolling centerfield for Class AA Tennessee.

But if you ask Jackson, there's still work to do.

"Right now for me, my focus is on being more consistent as a player," said Jackson, who batted .259 with six home runs and 23 RBI through 41 games at Tennessee. "I have talked with the Cubs and right now we know the tools are there, the ability is all there, it's just a matter of putting it all together and being a more consistent player."

Developing consistency is hard enough. It gets even harder when you find yourself on the disabled list just over a month into the season.

On May 11, Jackson injured his left pinkie finger sliding into second base. He's now back hitting leadoff, but isn't quite back to normal, he says.

"I've had to make some adjustments with my swing in general," said Jackson. "I came off the DL and my timing was off a little bit, but it took a few days and it's starting to feel real good again."

Tennessee manager Brian Harper agrees with Jackson's diagnosis of his play.

"A finger is one of those things that can throw you off a little bit, and I think right now he's a little off," said Harper. "But the last few games, he's been swinging the bat a lot better."

Jackson's recovery is a good sign for the Cubs. To start the season, Harper was instructed to bat Jackson in the leadoff spot, where he spent most of last season and might be used at the next level. Jackson responded by boasting a .295 average with 25 walks and 13 stolen bases in 34 games prior to the injury.

"I enjoy leading off, getting on base and scoring a lot of runs," says Jackson. "I feel I have the abilities to hit for power and be an on-base guy in that position. I'm enjoying learning about it and I think it can be something really positive for my future."

Jackson is labeled by many as a five-tool player, meaning he can hit for average and power, has speed on the base paths, and is an above average thrower and fielder.

But what's impressed Harper the most is Jackson's intangibles.

"He really likes to play and he's a real good teammate," said Harper. "He's more concerned about us winning than him getting hits."

When asked where he's seen Jackson excel the most this season, Harper added one more tool the resume.

"It's the one that nobody talks about," said Harper. "To me, his best tool is how he plays the game, how he hustles, and plays hard, and that's not one of the five tools but it's kind of like the sixth tool as I call it."

When the Cubs made the trade for Garza back in January, nobody knew what they were giving up in the young players they traded away. What they did know is they had a special player in the organization that they weren't willing to deal.

Jackson recognized that and is making the most of the opportunity.

"I'm really proud to wear the Chicago Cubs (logo)," said Jackson. "I take pride in the fact that I'm a player they wanted to hold on to. I look forward to being a big part of the future for the Cubs, and it's somewhere I see myself and somewhere I will enjoy playing the game everyday."

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