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posted: 8/9/2012 10:17 PM

New Cubs Jackson, Vitters happy to be at Wrigley

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  • Josh Vitters connects for his first major-league hit with a double in the seventh inning to drive in a pair of runs earlier this week at San Diego.

      Josh Vitters connects for his first major-league hit with a double in the seventh inning to drive in a pair of runs earlier this week at San Diego.
    Associated Press

 
 

Even Cubs staff members were finding it hard to get used to the new look and feel in the Wrigley Field clubhouse.

Just over a week ago, that clubhouse was inhabited by the likes of Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto and Jeff Baker.

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Today, Maholm's locker is occupied by rookie Brett Jackson, and fellow rookie Josh Vitters is next to him.

Other new faces dot the rest of the room, but it was Jackson and Vitters who drew all the media attention before Thursday night's rain-delayed game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Both are former No. 1 draft picks, and each was eagerly awaiting his Wrigley Field debut.

Jackson was in Thursday's starting lineup, batting seventh and playing center field. Vitters, however, had to wait, as manager Dale Sveum went with the left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena and his .204 batting average against Reds right-hander Mike Leake.

Either way, it has been a whirlwind week for both Jackson and Vitters, who were called up this past weekend in Los Angeles.

"I think that once I play my first game at Wrigley that it'll definitely settle in," said Vitters, the Cubs' top draft pick in 2007. "Just being here and seeing the field is really a phenomenal experience to be out here and just being a part of the team this time and not just taking BP (batting practice) after I got drafted in the first round.

"It's really great to earn my way here and hopefully I'll be here for a long time to come."

Jackson sat out Wednesday's series finale at San Diego after a spate of strikeouts. But he, too, was looking forward to playing in front of his new home folks.

"I finally got a little sleep the last couple nights, which is nice," he said. "I'm starting to settle in a little bit. This is a whole new experience, though, playing in Chicago tonight.

"I kind of got settled in at San Diego, and then kind of get that adrenaline and excitement again tonight. It's hardly gone away. It's been a fun few days."

Jackson and Vitters are the two most high-profile symbols of what's going on with the Cubs. A trading-deadline purge of veterans accelerated the rebuilding process even if it means the Cubs figure to lose a lot of games the rest of the way.

Both players performed well at Class AAA Iowa, with Vitters enjoying a breakout season while Jackson battled the strikeout bug.

"I never really put a timetable on myself," said Vitters, who turns 23 on Aug. 27. "I didn't know how fast I would develop as a player. I just knew that I would work hard every day and when the time came, it would be the right time. So, yeah, I think that this is definitely the right time for me."

But Vitters did say it was nice to break in with Jackson.

"Definitely," he said. "We always talked about it. The last few years, we talked about how awesome it would be if we could come up together.

"I'm really glad they did it that way. It's nice for us to be here because if one of us struggles or we both struggle, I think it will be easier because we'll be able to talk to each other about it and learn a lot. I think that's just the perfect way to come in."

Jackson, who just turned 24, sounded more than eager to get going at Wrigley.

"I think you want to be up as soon as you can, right?" he said. "Certainly, I knew how close I was this year and wanted to be here. That probably led to a lot of the reason I pushed myself in the minor leagues and probably led to a little struggle, but a struggle that in the end is going to be a great learning experience for me and force me to grow as a player.

"We're here now, and it comes at a good time. I'm looking forward to years to come."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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