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Have arm, will travel

Edwin Jackson's finally settled in for a while, and it's with the Cubs

April 02, 2013|By Scott Bolohan | For RedEye

Los Angeles. Tampa Bay. Detroit. Arizona. Chicago. St. Louis. Washington, D.C.

It might sound like a Johnny Cash song or the world's worst layover, but for Edwin Jackson, they are the places he's called home since 2005.

Now Jackson, 29, returns to Chicago, this time with the Cubs, who signed him to the first long-term contract of his career (four years, $52 million). He'll be on the mound for the North Siders on Wednesday.

It appears his wandering days are over.

For Jackson, moving is nothing new. After all, his Twitter profile lists his locations as "Wherever the wind blows me." A self-described "military brat," Jackson was born in West Germany while his dad was a cook in the Army and didn't pick up baseball until moving to Georgia at age 8.

"I've been on the move all my life so I'm kind of used to it," Jackson said. "I've been living out of a suitcase for a long time."

Jackson made his major-league debut with the L.A. Dodgers on Sept. 9, 2003, his 20th birthday, beating Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks and reaffirming his status as a top prospect. But things didn't go according to plan afterward. Though he was traded to Tampa Bay and was part of the rotation that led the team to the World Series in 2008, that was the last time he finished two consecutive seasons with the same team.

"I don't think of [being traded] as a bad thing, it just means teams want me," Jackson said. "Usually it was team going to the playoffs who thinks you can help them win. I understand why a lot of the time I was traded. The organizations want you for how you pitch, you just have to be ready to play."

In Jackson, the Cubs get one of the most electric arms in baseball, consistently throwing 95 mph. He has the resume to prove it: He was an All-Star with Detroit in 2009, threw a no-hitter with Arizona in 2010 and won a World Series with St. Louis in 2011. He also gives the Cubs stability in a rotation that saw 12 pitchers start a game last season. Jackson has started at least 30 games in six straight seasons.

"He has proven his durability and he has proven his talent," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said in January. "But he is also still at an age where we think he can get even better and fit right in what we're trying to do age-wise and talent-wise. He can help us a lot in 2013, but he also can be a part of the core we're trying to build."

Jackson cited the Cubs' bright future as well as his familiarity with Chicago as reasons for joining the team. And the Cubs are doing their part to make Jackson feel at home, already naming him the starter of their home opener.

"I had a chance to pitch in the home opener on the other side of town, but now the South Side is the bad side," Jackson said, laughing. "It's exciting just coming over to the team to start the home opener. Hopefully we get the ball rolling in a positive direction."

One of the benefits of being on so many teams is Jackson might be one of the most popular players in the sport.

"I've played with so many organizations that I always run across people I've played with in the past, so I always have somebody on the team I know," Jackson said.

After a life on the move, is Jackson ready to finally settle down and buy a home in Chicago?

"I'm probably just renting," he said, laughing. "Chicago winters, man. It's a great city, but I don't want to be here for that."

Scott Bolohan is a RedEye special contributor.

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