Back from the five weeks in the Caribbean, first baseman/outfielder Conor Jackson looks like a new man. Rather, like the man he was before a case of "valley fever" ruined his 2009 season.
Jackson regained his stroke in the fall instructional league and appeared to fully regain his health while playing for Escogido of the Dominican winter league. Jackson hit a robust .425 with six doubles, two home runs, 16 RBI, and nine stolen bases in 23 games before leaving Escogido in mid-November. Just as importantly, he had enough stamina to play virtually every game.
"He did very well," said Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes. "The whole fall was encouraging."
Jackson was an integral piece of the D-backs offense in 2008, when he hit a career-high .300 with 31 doubles, 12 homers, 75 RBI, and 10 stolen bases. The former first-round draft pick missed the final five months of 2009, however. He was first diagnosed with fatigue and pneumonia, but was finally found to have valley fever, a viral infection caused by wind-borne spores. Jackson tried to play through it, hitting .182 with one homer and 14 RBI in 30 games, but clearly was not himself.
"He's ready to play next year," Byrnes said. "All signs point to that."
Jackson's return would be a big help, since he can play both first base and left field. As things stand now, he would be the starting first baseman ahead of Brandon Allen. With his patient approach at the plate, Jackson provides a needed counterpoint to free swingers such as third baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielders Chris Young and Justin Upton.
Jackson is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility after making $3.05 million last season, and his salary is expected to remain about the same or decrease slightly because of his injury-marred 2009.
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