Brett Jackson has dealt with a lot since the end of a tough 2012 season -- a new swing, several injuries and a slow start at the plate. He's put it all behind him and in the process has matured as a player.
The Cubs' No. 4 prospect recorded his first four-hit game in more than a year Friday night, but Triple-A Iowa dropped a 9-8 decision to visiting Tucson.
Jackson, who had four hits for Iowa on May 1, 2012, singled three times, doubled and scored a run. The 2009 first-round pick also reached on a throwing error by Padres shortstop Gregorio Petit.
"Well, Tucson's been throwing some lefties at me, I just made the most of it," Jackson said. "I saw Clayton Richard last night and that was a good challenge. I was looking to let the ball get deep and hit it hard. We pushed for the comeback in the ninth, but it fell through. All in all a good night; when you get four hits against lefties you come away happy."
The 24-year-old outfielder pushed his May average to .353 (12-for-34). He dealt with a shoulder injury in March that limited his time in Spring Training, then was on the disabled list earlier this month with turf toe. So it's no surprise that he batted .219 (14-for-64) in April.
"Not to make any excuse, but to come off missing a couple of weeks in the spring and then I came up with this turf toe in April, it was hard to string together a series of at-bats," Jackson said. "I finally have gotten in there every day and I'm starting to feel real good with the swing. I'm starting to enjoy playing and playing every day and looking for good pitches to hit."
Perhaps the biggest thing for Jackson, who once was ranked among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, is tinkering wth his swing. After reaching the Major Leagues last August, Jackson batted .175 with four homers and nine RBIs in 44 games with Chicago. The performance left a bad taste in his mouth and he knew he needed to make some improvements.
"I met with [Cubs manager] Dale Sveum in the offseason, and obviously with the taste of the big leagues and two months of a lot of struggle with obviously pieces of success, I got a glimpse of what I needed to do as a hitter and be what I wanted to be," Jackson said. "The skill has always been there, it's just a matter of putting together the right recipe of putting together that skill. I feel like I've worked from the offseason until now to be the player I want to be.
"Being in the big leagues last year gave me the opportunity to see some adversity, but bigger than that to see what I needed to do to improve myself."
Still, it took time and the help of a veteran to put Jackson on track back in the Pacific Coast League.
"Some of the best advice I've gotten is, I was sitting with Ian Stewart, talking about hitting and I was feeling for my swing as you do early in the season," Jackson recalled. "He asked if I was comfortable at the plate and I said I'm not very comfortable right now. He's like, 'You need to be yourself at the plate and be comfortable and be the type of hitter [you] want to be.'"
Which leads to the obvious question: What type of hitter does Jackson want to be?
"I think I have the potential to hit for power and to get on base and cause damage with my speed," he said. "I think it takes time to figure out how to use all those assets. I want to be a hitter that causes damage and is in the front of a lineup and that can help a team win. I want to score runs and I want to be able to drive in runs."
Overall, Jackson is batting .265 with nine extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in 27 games for the I-Cubs.
Josh Vitters, the Cubs' No. 14 prospect, went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and Logan Watkins hit a solo homer.
Dean Anna was 4-for-5 with three runs scored and Petit collected three RBIs for Tucson, which has won 11 of its last 13 games.