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Jackson impressive in first start after layoff

The 105 pitches Edwin Jackson threw over 52/3 innings and the way he held down the potent Texas Rangers was impressive Monday in his first start. Especially after a 10-day layoff.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 10, 2007


ARLINGTON, Texas - The 105 pitches Edwin Jackson threw over 52/3 innings and the way he held down the potent Texas Rangers was impressive Monday in his first start. Especially after a 10-day layoff.

But manager Joe Maddon liked the way Jackson - who had a fastball clocked regularly at 96 mph and at times a good slider - did it even better.

"He pitched really well, and he threw the ball great," Maddon said. "Beyond all the physical attributes we're seeing, I really like the way he's handling himself right now. I just think he's under control, his confidence is building, and he's going to keep getting better."

Jackson was relatively pleased. "That was the plan from the beginning of spring training - aggressive, aggressive, aggressive," he said.

NOW PLAYING: Among the factors Maddon will consider in determining whether to play Rocco Baldelli or Elijah Dukes in centerfield is who does better when not playing in the field.

With Baldelli starting in center, Dukes was the DH and went 0-for-4.

Maddon wouldn't commit to a specific rotation between the two, saying it could go "back-and-forth." Part of that is seeing how Dukes, a 22-year-old rookie, handles the DH assignment, which can be difficult for a young player.

Maddon noted that Baldelli has done well with it.

Dukes was a DH 22 times in the minors, though only once last season. He planned to spend his free time in the batting cage but wasn't sure how it would go: "I'm the type of guy that likes to keep moving."

The bigger issue will be how Baldelli, who was slowed in spring training by right hamstring tightness, feels. "I really don't know how this is going to balance," Maddon said. "He's done so well to this point, it's one of those things - why mess with it? I want to take this real slowly, talk to him and see how he feels about it."

FAMILIAR FACE: 3B Akinori Iwamura was excited to see - and eager to face - Rangers reliever Akinori Otsuka. "He's my friend," Iwamura said in English.

The two share not only a first name that is uncommon in Japan but a lengthy relationship that started about 11 years ago when Iwamura's older brother, Takashi, and Otsuka played together in the minor leagues for Kintetsu.

They became "pretty close," and Iwamura said he called Otsuka for advice once the Rays won his rights in December and again during spring training.

"Of course I want to face (Boston's Daisuke) Matsuzaka and (New York's Kei) Igawa, but in my heart I want to play against Otsuka more," Iwamura said, this time through interpreter Masa Koyanagi.

KAZZED UP: As if striking out 10 Blue Jays and still losing to ace Roy Halladay weren't tough enough for Rays LHP Scott Kazmir, consider his next assignment - a Friday night matchup with two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, and in Minnesota, where last season he was 12-0 with a 2.19 ERA. ... Kazmir was only the second pitcher since the 1973 inception of the DH to record his first eight outs by strikeouts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other was Ron Guidry, who got his first nine batters on strikeouts (and 11 overall) in a 1986 game at Texas.

MINOR MATTERS: RHP Mitch Talbot, one of the Rays' top prospects, made a dazzling Triple-A debut Monday with six no-hit innings against Pawtucket. Reliever Steve Andrade carried the no-hitter into the eighth and then gave up a two-out single. ... In what could be a significant development, Jorge Cantu started at first base for the first time.

MISCELLANY: With a seventh--inning home run, Carl Crawford scored his 401st run, surpassing Aubrey Huff for the franchise lead. ... Delmon Young also extended his hitting streak to all six games. ... Tropicana Field was among the sites considered for relocation of the Angels-Indians series, which was moved from Cleveland to Milwaukee.