Cubs quintet looks to bounce back

Cubs quintet looks to bounce back

MESA, Ariz. -- For some of the Cubs players last season, the problem wasn't aches or pains, but struggles with command or simply trying to do too much at the plate. The 2015 season is a chance to bounce back.

This is the first in a series of Spring Training previews leading up to Feb. 19, when pitchers and catchers report to Arizona. Here are Cubs players on the rebound:

RHP Edwin Jackson: Jackson isn't coming back from an injury, just two tough seasons in which he has lost 33 games. His 6.33 ERA last season was his highest since 2004, and that year, he only pitched in eight games. Last year, his BABIP was a career-high .357. Manager Joe Maddon and catcher Miguel Montero both know Jackson well from their days together with the Rays and D-backs, respectively. Maybe that can get the right-hander on track. Jackson was in the Cubs' bullpen at season's end last year, but only made one appearance. He's considered a starter. And there are still two years remaining on his contract at $11 million each.

Jackson's quality start

LHP Travis Wood: An All-Star in 2013, Wood wasn't able to follow up, serving up career highs in hits (190) and walks (76) over 173 2/3 innings. That's a lot of baserunners. He totaled 24 quality starts in 2013 and 13 in 2014. The lefty struggled with his fastball command and was often knocked out of games early because of a high pitch count. On May 30, for example, he threw 62 pitches over 2 2/3 innings vs. the Brewers; on July 2, he threw 93 over 3 2/3 innings vs. the Red Sox. He's been durable; now he needs to be productive.

Wood's scoreless start

3B Mike Olt: Olt did lead all National League rookies in home runs at the All-Star break with 12, but was batting .144. The Cubs' Opening Day third baseman, he was eventually sent to Triple-A Iowa on July 22 and called his stint in the Minor Leagues "the best thing for me." His goal now is to be consistent, with a shorter swing, and not try to swing as hard. The 2014 season was his first with the Cubs and first since an eye injury. He's healthy and could provide some pop in the lineup.

Olt's two-run dinger

OF Ryan Sweeney: Sweeney missed significant time last season because of hamstring issues to both legs. He was placed on the disabled list on May 3 because of a right hamstring strain and didn't return until June 13. On Aug. 27, he was sidelined with a left hamstring strain and missed the rest of the season. This is the last year of his two-year, $3.5 million contract, which does include a club option for 2016. Sweeney, who turns 30 on Feb. 20, does give the Cubs a much-needed left-handed bat and experience but it'll be hard for him to get regular at-bats with the addition of Dexter Fowler.

Sweeney exits game with injury

RHP Daniel Bard: A non-roster invitee, Bard is looking for a fresh start. A first-round pick by the Red Sox in 2006, he was the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year in '08. In 2010, he compiled a 1.93 ERA over 73 games and was Boston's top setup pitcher. But in September 2011, he went 0-4 with a 10.64 ERA. The Red Sox tried him as a starter in 2012, but on Sept. 1, 2013, he was designated for assignment. The Cubs claimed him off waivers, but he was non-tendered in December 2013 and signed with the Rangers last year. In June, he was released after appearing in four games for Class A Hickory. He faced 18 batters in two-thirds of an inning over the four games and hit seven and walked nine. The Cubs front office knows Bard well from their days together in Boston and hope pitching coach Chris Bosio can help.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.