Non-roster invitee Conor Jackson continues to make the most of his opportunity this spring.
Jackson hit a pair of homers in Sunday's 12-3 Grapefruit League win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Ed Smith Stadium. Both of them were aided by the wind, but I thought both were hit well enough to get out of the stadium on a calm day.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter disagreed.
“He’d be the first to tell you they were good swings in the proper elements,” he said.
Still, you can’t argue that Jackson, who has played in more than 60 games just once since contracting Valley Fever in 2009, is off to a good start in fighting for a reserve roster spot. He has driven in five runs in six spring games and recorded a .313/.353/.750 line in Grapefruit League play.
“I need to, as cliché as it sounds, focus every day on every at-bat,” Jackson said after Sunday’s game. “You’ve got to take it like it’s the seventh game of the World Series. That’s kind of my mindset.”
Talking to Jackson earlier this spring, he said that the difference had been not getting consistent at bats. Valley Fever -- a rare condition found in the Southwest United States that infects your lungs when you breathe in fungal spores and zaps your energy.
“In 2009, there were a lot of times when I didn’t think I’d play baseball again,” Jackson said. “It hit me that hard. I missed a full year and when you miss a full year in the middle of your career it’s difficult to get back on track.”
So last year’s full season in the Chicago White Sox system at Triple-A Charlotte gave him those at-bats. He played in 88 games there, putting up a .277/.363/.434 line.
“I think the last year, the ability to go down in Triple-A and play every day was something that I missed the two years before,” Jackson said. “The last two years, I was platooning in Oakland and Arizona and it’s tough to get to get your stroke back, especially when I missed [most] of 2009. I think last year helped me out quite a bit to kind of hone down and get those every day at bats. I’m happy with where I’m at right now in the spring and there’s a long ways to go."
By the way, the Orioles are off today. They're resume play on Tuesday in Dunedin against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter is back in Baltimore for the day to accept The Baltimore Sun's Marylander of the Year award.