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'You Just Hope He Never Changes'
2003-09-10 08:40
by Jon Weisman

So said Vin Scully about Edwin Jackson last night, and I couldn't agree more. Especially because Vin was talking not only about Jackson's pitching, but his smile.

Call me a sentimental fool, but there is nothing like seeing a young baseball player thrilled. And to see that ballplayer balance his excitement with poise - that's pretty much the pinnacle of enjoyment for me as a fan.

If it weren't for the television coverage and the 36,000 people in attendance, it would have been the same as watching a second-grader excel in the lead role of Tomato in the school play, Les Vegetables.

Anyway, it was a night the most casual observer could appreciate. As I wrote in April, a large part of appreciating baseball is just understanding the characters in the movie.

As for Jackson's moundsmanship ...

In his six innings against Arizona, Jackson allowed four hits, struck out four - and in a particularly amazing feat for a pitcher who walked or hit nearly four batters per nine innings in AA ball, he walked no one.

The righthander threw 80 pitches, 49 for strikes. He did not throw many first-pitch strikes: 11 out of 22 batters faced. But on only three occasions did he reach a 2-0 count, and only once did he go to 3-0. In fact, he went to three balls on only three batters.

He threw with heat - reports said he reached the high 90s - and movement. He had the requisite pitch tailing down and away that always foils batters like Raul Mondesi (who struck out twice against Jackson and once against Eric Gagne). Jackson also had a pitch that moved outside to inside on righthanded batters, almost like a screwball.

With Andy Ashby following Brian Jordan on the disabled highway out of Los Angeles, speculation has arisen that the Dodgers would add Jackson to a potential postseason roster in the same manner that the Angels added Francisco Rodriquez last season. Don't count on this happening.

For one thing, the Dodgers seem very conscious of nurturing Jackson, and aware of the risks of stressing Jackson's arm at age 20. Additionally, the Dodger staff is deeper than the Angel staff was in 2002 - a guy like Steve Colyer, who throws hard and from the left side, seems like a more likely addition. And that's assuming that the Dodgers even went with 11 pitchers in a postseason that has more off days than the regular season does.

But with Hideo Nomo's return date uncertain, and Kazuhisa Ishii's September performance unsteady, there is every possibility that we haven't seen the last of Edwin Jackson and his young man smile this season.

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