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September 3, 2010

On the Beat

No Worse for the Wear

by John Perrotto

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Edwin Jackson's right arm has yet to fall off despite throwing a whopping 149 pitches in a no-hitter earlier this season. However, the White Sox pitcher might be in danger of missing time with splinters in the knuckles of his pitching hand.

Ask Jackson if he has felt any effects from that 149-pitch outing on June 25 when he pitched his gem against the Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and he smiles and knocks on his wooden locker. Ask him if he thinks he can continue his seven-year streak of not icing his pitching arm and he knocks again.

"I'm very fortunate, I guess," Jackson said with a smile. "I don't have any answer for why my arm is able to respond so well. Maybe, it's good genes. Whatever it is, I'm very thankful."

A.J. Hinch, who was fired as the Diamondbacks' manager less than a week later, took plenty of heat for allowing Jackson to throw 149 pitches in a game in which the right-hander walked eight, including seven in the first three innings. However, Jackson had no problem with Hinch's decision then and continues to believe it was the right move.

"I felt good," Jackson said. "I never got tired. I was still strong when I got the last out. I wanted to stay in that game. I had a no-hitter going and it was a one-run game. I never felt I was being put in any kind of danger of being hurt."

Jackson made five more starts for the Diamondbacks under interim manager Kirk Gibson before getting traded to the White Sox on July 31. Jackson was given six days of rest after the no-hitter and also got a 10-day break between starts sandwiched around the All-Star break, but his other three outings were on the normal four days of rest. Jackson went at least five innings and 88 pitches in each of the five starts, going 1-4 with a 7.24 ERA.

If the poor performance seemed to be an indication of the 149-pitch hangover, it did not deter the White Sox from trading top pitching prospect Dan Hudson for Jackson at the non-waiver deadline. The White Sox had planned to then deal Jackson to the Nationals for Adam Dunn, but Washington decided not to trade the slugging first baseman.

Yet it has worked out well for the White Sox. Jackson has gone 3-2 with a 1.47 ERA in five starts since the trade, contributing 1.3 WARP to a team that is second in the American League Central, 3 1/2 games behind the Twins. Jackson has turned in quality starts in all five outings and is currently on a streak of three straight double-digit strikeout games.

"He hasn't just come over and kept us in ballgames, he's been lights out, he's been dominant," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

The White Sox limited Jackson to 95 pitches in his first two starts, but he's thrown 112, 109, and 129 in his last three. The 129-pitch outing came Tuesday night in a victory over the Indians as Jackson came within one out of a complete game.

"He didn't lose anything as the game went on," Pierzynski said. "He was still strong at the end."

Perhaps all the pitches will eventually catch up with Jackson. For his part, he'll keep knocking on wood and not stressing over his pitch counts.

"I'm one of those pitchers, who for whatever reason, doesn't seem to really start throwing well until I'm a couple innings into the game," Jackson said. "I started throwing harder about the third or fourth inning. That's why it doesn't bother me to pitch deep into games. Rather than get tired, I feel stronger as the game goes on. I like to stay in the game as long as they'll let me."

---

It seems there are questions about Mets manager Jerry Manuel's future on a daily basis. There is a growing belief around the club that he will be let go at the end of the season when his contract runs out as the Mets are 66-68. However, Manuel says he is not interested in what the future holds.

"I've got to win games," he said. "I don't win games, anything can happen. My job is to continue to try to put the team in the best position to win. That's what I'm trying to do."

Manuel is in the difficult situation of managing in an organization that wants to win now but is also trying to retool with three rookies in the starting lineup in catcher Josh Thole, first baseman Ike Davis, and second baseman Ruben Tejada, and another just added to the rotation in right-hander Jenrry Mejia. Stunningly, Manuel listed some of his potential replacements during an appearance on the Mets' flagship radio station this season. He named Wally Backman, manager of the Mets' short-season Brooklyn farm club who told the New York Post he thought he could have done a better job of managing the major-league club this season, as one of the candidates.

"I just take it a day at a time," Manuel said. "I'll be fine one way or the other. Whatever people I have, I'm going to take care of. Whatever kids, older players, I have I'm going to take care of."

Even if Manuel is indeed a lame duck, he would like to finish out the season.

"I'd rather wait until we're done," he said. "Unless it becomes an issue in (the clubhouse) with the players. I don't want it to be a distraction."

---

The Red Sox, on the surface, seemed to be throwing in the towel on the season when they traded reliever Manny Delcarmen to the Rockies for a minor-leaguer. After all, the Red Sox are eight games behind the Yankees in the AL East and 6 1/2 games behind the wild card-leading Rays.

It was reminiscent of a trade the Red Sox made during 2006, the last time they did not make the postseason, when they traded David Wells to the Padres for catching prospect George Kottaras, also on August 31. However, general manager Theo Epstein, the man who engineered both trades, said the deals have nothing in common, even though Delcarmen is fourth in Red Sox history with 289 relief appearances.

"I think it's distinguishable from the Wells-Kottaras trade," Epstein said. "I think that was a bright-line example of where our hopes for contention in that season had completely dissipated based on the injuries and talent we had left on the roster, whereas I think this club is capable of winning games."

The Red Sox believe they bolstered their post-season hopes by deleting Delcarmen from the bullpen. He contributed just 0.05 WXRL in 44 innings this season. Furthermore, manager Terry Francona lost faith in Delcarmen as he had not pitched in a game in which the Red Sox had a lead since August 10 or in a tie game since August 13.

"I don't think moving what had become a lower-leverage reliever was going to make the difference for us one way or the other," Epstein said. "We're constantly looking to find guys that we can lean on in high-leverage situations, and the way the season evolved, Manny wasn't one of those guys."

---

Manny Ramirez's introductory press conference with the White Sox on Tuesday was certainly a strange affair, as he answered questions only in Spanish with bench coach Joey Cora serving as the interpreter. However, the designated hitter has spent the last 25 years in the United States, having moved to New York from the Dominican Republic when he was 13.

Cora, though, said there was an explanation for Ramirez wanting to make the press conference a bilingual affair even though all the media members covering it were from English-language affiliates.

"He just really wants to fit in," Cora said. "All he wants to do is play baseball. He doesn't want to be the main focus or the talk of the town. All he wants to do is get his at-bats, play the rest of the way and then see what happens. Sometimes people like him are so scrutinized by the media (that) they're going to find something eventually, and he just wants to play baseball. He knew he had to talk to the media, but he wanted to make sure that if he had to be there, he wanted to be there (on his terms), not so that someone else can interpret it. I think he did the smart thing."

Ramirez told Cora he has been misunderstood in the past. By speaking Spanish, Ramirez believed he could make his points more clearly.

"I don't think it's a big deal," Cora said. "He wanted to make sure that everything was understood and the way he really wanted it out there."

---

MLB Rumors and Rumblings: It appears all but certain that the Cubs will not hire a marquee name as their next manager, ruling out all the Joe Torre and Joe Girardi speculation and leading some to think they may get into a competition with the Braves to hire former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez. .… The Dodgers want to sign left-hander Ted Lilly to a contract extension before he can become a free agent, and the Mets want to do the same with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey before he could go to an arbitration hearing. … The Red Sox plan to take a long look at catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to determine whether he can be their starter next season or if they should try to re-sign Victor Martinez as a free agent. … Even though he can become a free agent at the end of the season, John Buck will get a majority of starts at catcher for the Blue Jays during the remainder of the season rather than prospect J.P. Arencibia. … Look for shortstop Danny Espinosa, a September call-up for the Nationals, to see plenty action down the stretch.

---

Scouts' takes on various major leaguers:

Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer: "He's truly the Twins' unsung hero. He's moved from right field to third base and first base when they've needed help this year and he gives them a quality at-bat every time up. He can murder inside pitches and he rarely gets himself out. He's a good player that goes unnoticed."

Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez: "I thought for sure they were going to have to move him out from behind the plate earlier this season because his defense was so bad, but he looks comfortable back there now. He's not a Gold Glove guy, but he's not to point where he has to switch positions yet."

Orioles left fielder Felix Pie: "He's maturing into a good big-league hitter. He handles pitches on the outer half of the plate extremely well and doesn't chase nearly as many pitches as he used to. He can definitely be part of the future in Baltimore."

Tigers second baseman Will Rhymes: "I really like this kid. He's a little guy but he can handle the bat, get on base, and run the bases. He makes things happen."

---

Three series to watch with probable pitching matchups with all times Eastern:

White Sox (73-60) at Red Sox (76-58), Friday-Sunday September 3-5
John Danks vs. Clay Buchholz, 7:10 p.m.; Gavin Floyd vs. John Lackey, 7:10 p.m.; Mark Buehrle vs. Josh Beckett, 1:35 p.m.

Rangers (75-58) at Twins (77-57), Friday-Sunday September 3-5
Derek Holland vs. Matthew Fox, 8:10 p.m.; Colby Lewis vs. Carl Pavano, 4:10 p.m. C.J. Wilson vs. Nick Blackburn, 2:10 p.m.

Reds (78-55) at Cardinals (69-62), Friday-Sunday September 3-5
Bronson Arroyo vs. Jaime Garcia, 8:15 p.m.; Travis Wood vs. Adam Wainwright, 4:10 p.m.; Homer Bailey vs. Chris Carpenter, 2:15 p.m.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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