06/27/2004 7:47 PM ET
Notes: Jackson keeps the faith
Reliever won't let tough stretch force him out of game
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Back in 1996, during Mike Jackson's second stint with the Seattle Mariners, the veteran reliever entered the All-Star break with an earned run average hovering around 7.00.
Halfway through his 11th season in the Major Leagues, Jackson thought he had enough.
"I was at the end of my road and going to quit," Jackson said. "But [former Seattle manager] Lou [Piniella] said, 'You are not a quitter. You are a fighter.' I had a great second half. I feel the same way now."
Jackson finished the 1996 season with a 1-1 record and 3.63 ERA in 73 games, while picking up six saves. He went on to pitch five more seasons with Cleveland, Houston and Minnesota, proving to be one of the more durable and knowledgeable bullpen men in the game.
But eight years later, the right-hander finds himself in another mini-crisis of pitching faith. The 39-year-old has struggled during his last eight games, posting a 12.27 ERA (10 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings) for the White Sox. Jackson has been scored upon in his last four outings, including a grand slam allowed to Cleveland's Ben Broussard on Wednesday.
The troubles also have come at home for Jackson, who has a 7.71 ERA at U.S. Cellular Field. But there is no thought on the veteran's part of hanging it up because of one rough stretch.
"I have to stay positive and believe in myself because I know I can get the job done," Jackson said. "I'm not throwing poorly. It's just not throwing one important pitch in a sequence where I need to get it.
"I'm going to get better. There are just some adjustments I need to make. I appreciate Coop [pitching coach Don Cooper] and [White Sox manager] Ozzie [Guillen] giving me a chance to work out my problems."
Jackson appeared Friday against the Cubs and allowed a Ramon Martinez home run during one inning of work. Despite his struggles, he's also not worried about a possible reassignment, probably bringing about the end of his career.
After missing last year entirely, when no team would take a chance on him after Arizona sent him down at the end of Spring Training, Jackson once again is enjoying life in the Major Leagues. His veteran presence in the bullpen, working with young hurlers such as Neal Cotts and Jon Adkins, is almost as important as his actual mound presence.
"You need a leader out there, and I take that upon myself," Jackson said. "We are one unit, and we all stay together. It has nothing to do with whether I'm pitching well or not.
"I never think about what move [the White Sox] will make. If they do make a move, I can't control that anyway. I understand what they are thinking, but I have to worry about getting hitters out."
Bang a gong: Shingo Takatsu didn't have a chance Saturday afternoon to see the new video montage that welcomes his presence into closing a game, although the marketing department did preview it for him personally. First, a gong sounds, followed by highlights of Takatsu pitching, with the words 'Mr. Zero' spelled out in Japanese.
It doesn't quite have the powerful impact of Eric Gagne's entrance in Los Angeles, where the Dodger Stadium scoreboard flashes 'Game Over' as 'Welcome to the Jungle' plays. But the crowd certainly reacted forcefully, giving Takatsu a standing ovation as he entered.
"You don't have a reaction like that from the audience in Japan," said Takatsu, through his interpreter Hiroshi Abei. "It was a very enjoyable moment."
Takatsu earned another standing ovation when he retired Sammy Sosa on a ground out to third base in the eighth inning of Saturday's victory and was cheered again when he finished off the Cubs in order in the ninth. Takatsu's scoreless inning streak increased to 25 1/3 over his last 23 games, dropping his earned run average to 0.95.
While 'Shingo-mania' is taking off in Chicago, it still hasn't caught on full force with the Japanese media.
"All the Japanese media following me are 'Shingo-geeks,'" said Takatsu with a smile. "I don't know what the other media is doing."
Tower of power: Timo Perez continued his high level of success against Greg Maddux on Sunday. Perez entered the contest with six hits in 15 at-bats against the right-hander, sitting five wins away from 300, including one home run and two RBIs.
He added to that total on Sunday with a two-run home run in the third, giving the White Sox the lead, and a single in the fifth. The veteran outfielder enjoys the challenge of facing a possible Hall of Famer.
"If I get one hit off him, then that's a pretty good afternoon," said Perez of facing Maddux. "He has good control, good location and is a good defensive player.
"Maddux is a Hall of Fame pitcher. I always like hitting against someone that good."
Perez also did the Sammy Sosa sprint out to right field during pregame introductions and mimicked Sosa's chest tap after going deep. But it was all in good fun, according to Perez.
"He's a great player and from my same country," said Perez of Sosa. "I have a lot of respect for him."
Down on the farm: Despite Joe Borchard's 14th home run and four hits from Mario Valenzuela, including his 13th home run, Triple-A Charlotte fell by a 10-8 margin at Ottawa. Bobby Smith added three hits.
Mike Spidale hit his second home run and drove in four runs during Double-A Birmingham's 8-6 victory over Montgomery. Normand Martel also homered and drove in two. Brandon McCarthy struck out seven and improved to 8-5 in Single-A Kannapolis' 2-0 victory over Hickory during the first game of a doubleheader.
|Mike Jackson has posted a 12.27 ERA in his last eight appearances. (Dave Kaup/Getty Images)
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.