Cardenas was having dinner Sunday night with Jackson in Des Moines when Triple-A Iowa manager Dave Bialas called. Dessert was out. Jackson said he'd pick up the tab. Cardenas had to pack.
The Cubs recalled Cardenas on Monday and optioned left-handed pitcher Travis Wood to Iowa. Wood subbed for sick starter Matt Garza on Sunday, and infielder Blake DeWitt had been designated for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster for Wood. The Cubs needed another infielder and picked Cardenas, whom they claimed off waivers from the Athletics in February.
"It's been a long road," said Cardenas. "To finally get here is unbelievable. It's time now to readjust your goals, and the object here is to win ballgames and hopefully stick, so that's what I'm going to do my best at. First and foremost, I'm thrilled and excited."
The 24-year-old expected 18 family members and friends at Monday's game against the Braves, just in case he got in the game for his Major League debut. He got his chance in the eighth inning of the Cubs' 5-1 victory over the Braves on Monday, appearing as a pinch-hitter and lining out to second baseman Dan Uggla.
"The guy can hit," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Cardenas, who was batting .319 in 26 games at Iowa. "He can square a ball up. He's got good bat speed. He gives us another nice left-handed bat off the bench. He'll play, too. We've got to get that left-handed bat in the lineup."
This is Cardenas' first trip to Chicago. He had a chance to come up earlier when the team claimed him, but wanted to wait until he got the call.
"I wanted the first time I get here to be when I got called up," he said. "I didn't realize Lake Michigan is so big."
During early batting practice, Cardenas tested the ivy on the outfield walls, pushing it a little just to see how thick it is.
"I'm a little overwhelmed," he said.
Jackson, the organization's highly touted outfielder, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo have gotten more attention as they work their way up to the big leagues. Cardenas gave his own scouting report on Rizzo.
"He's one of the hardest workers I've ever seen," Cardenas said. "As good as he is offensively, he's that much better defensively. He's an unbelievable talent. When we have [Bryan] LaHair and Rizzo in that lineup, watch out."