Jackson making an impression

After hitting two home runs, non-roster invitee Conor Jackson was walking out of the Ed Smith Stadium Complex yesterday and graciously came back inside to talk to several reporters. He’s not the type of guy standing in front of his locker hoping to get some publicity, although he got some earlier in camp when he was sidelined with some lower back discomfort.

As Jackson put it, you can’t impress anyone from the training room and the 30-year-old has done a pretty good job since being cleared to play.

“Coming into camp, I knew that I had to come out strong right away to have a shot at making the club,” he said. “That’s my goal. Kind of focus, as cliché as it sounds, on every day and every at-bat, you’ve got to grind it out and you’ve got to take it like it’s Game 7 of the World Series. That’s kind of my mindset right now.”

Jackson is an interesting story, going from a highly-touted first-round Draft pick to Arizona to a part-time player who struggled to put it together after hitting .300/.376/.446 in 2008.  So, what happened? He contracted Valley Fever in ’09 — a fungal disease caused by spores in the soil that leads to fever, headaches, cough and muscle pain — and was limited to just 30 games. He was traded to Oakland in 2010 and struggled to get back to form.

“In 2009, there were a lot of times when I didn’t think that I was going to play baseball again. It hit me that hard,” Jackson said. “I missed a full year, and when you miss a full year when you’re in the prime of your career, it’s difficult to get back on track. And then once you come back to the game and you’re platooning, you lose your starting job, it’s tough. It’s tough.”

Jackson said playing a full season  as an everyday player in Triple-A last year –for the White Sox organization– helped get him back on track and find his swing and he’s caught manager Buck Showalter’s attention early in camp.  There’s an open spot behind first baseman Chris Davis and Jackson has thrown his name in the mix.

“Sometimes, it’s about timing and getting a guy at the right time,” Showalter said. “This is a guy who’s hit .300 in the big leagues with 600 plate appearances in a year. Not a lot of them floating around. And he played a lot of games at first base, some in the outfield…He’s in the mix with some other people we’re looking at for that role. Some other guys are doing well, too.”

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