Commentary

Edwin Jackson fine as secret weapon

Journeyman starter not interested in fame or payback -- just White Sox wins

Updated: March 28, 2011, 11:05 AM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Thanks to the tabloid-style attention given to his famous right shoulder, Jake Peavy has been the most talked-about White Sox starter this spring.

Mark Buehrle remains the most familiar. John Danks is the probably the best all-around pitcher, and Gavin Floyd, with his penchant for slow starts, is the X factor.

So where does that leave Edwin Jackson?

"I'm hoping the other teams forget about him," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said.

Fat chance, but he certainly doesn't get the same attention as his rotation mates, even though his talent, especially his devastating fastball-slider combination, is right up there with all of them.

"It's impressive," Danks said of Jackson's stuff. "Him and Gavin both. Watching them throw in person, you wonder how they ever get hit."

Jackson said he's cool with the attention focusing on his teammates. He's cool with pretty much everything, as far as I can tell from conversations last year and this spring.

[+] EnlargeEdwin Jackson
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireEdwin Jackson was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 starts with the White Sox last season.

"[Media attention] is not the main objective," he said. "I don't need everyone patting my back every time I do something."

He says that without malice. Jackson is friendly and laid-back, traits that help him fit in with his rotation mates, said Danks, who probably has to be reminded himself which team he's pitching against.

Jackson was an Army brat -- he was born in Germany -- so he was used to moving around and making new friends. That has certainly helped him adjust to a peripatetic professional career.

Just 27, Jackson is already on his fifth team since getting drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001. He spent one season with Detroit, making the All-Star team, and then less than a season with Arizona.

The Diamondbacks traded him to Chicago at the non-waiver trade deadline last year, and he was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 starts with the White Sox.

Working with Cooper, the renowned pitcher whisperer, Jackson's control improved dramatically, albeit in a small sample size. His WHIP went down from 1.496 to 1.213 and his walks per nine innings went down from 4 to 2.2. In 75 innings with the White Sox, he had 77 strikeouts and only 18 walks.

Jackson has had an interesting career, and that's a nice way of putting it. He became a full-time starter in 2007 with Tampa Bay, where he went 5-15 with a 5.76 ERA. The next season, with that upstart Rays team, his walks and strikeouts went down and he went 14-11 with a 4.42 ERA, pitching out of the bullpen in the ALCS and World Series.

After the 2008 season, Jackson was traded to Detroit, where he made that All-Star appearance in '09. After the '09 season, he was traded again, this time to Arizona.

His lone highlight with the Diamondbacks was his career-defining eight-walk, 149-pitch no-hitter.

Jackson's promise and untapped potential have obviously made him a valued trading commodity. But as one observer noted in Arizona, usually there's a reason a guy is on five teams before he turns 30. And it was almost six.

The prevailing wisdom is that when Jackson, who will make $8.75 million this season in the final year of a two-year extension, was acquired at the deadline, Sox general manager Kenny Williams was trying to flip him to the Nationals for Adam Dunn.

But when that fell through, the team was perfectly content to hold on to him. And of course, they got Dunn in the offseason.

It has worked out quite well for everyone involved.

"Will it last forever? I don't know," Jackson said. "It's baseball. But I'm definitely happy right now."

For obvious reasons, Jackson, who will be a free agent after this season, isn't looking to settle down in Chicago. In fact, he just spent his offseason working with an interior designer on his house in Atlanta. The end result was a style with vibrant colors and custom furnishings. His decorator had full control, he said, but she didn't do anything "too, too crazy."

"I let her run with it," he said. "But it took the whole offseason. I had someone in my house almost every day. It could've been on 'Flip [This] House.'"

Cooper didn't think Jackson needed a makeover when he came in and said his spring has been pretty uneventful. They've worked on consistency and mechanics, just like the pitching coach does with every pitcher (except maybe Buehrle).

"Right now we haven't seen anything but consistency out of Edwin," Cooper said. "This stuff down here is all a dress rehearsal. He's throwing the ball well. He's getting his innings and his pitches up. What we saw last year in Chicago was good and that was consistent. And we're looking to pick up where we left off. We've done a couple delivery things to him, nothing major."

Jackson said he's not out to prove anything to the teams that gave up on him on a seemingly annual basis.

"I don't have anything to prove, man," he said. "My goal is to go out and help our team win. I don't have to prove anything to any one person. I'm going out to try and help us win anytime you can."

If history is a guide, he will have his struggles this season, Coop or no Coop. What does Jackson need to worry about? It's obvious.

"Consistency," he said. "Every year it's the same thing. Consistency, consistency, consistency. That's one word that never gets old. Consistency. It's the difference between a great player and a good player."

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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