LAKELAND, Fla. - He may be a rookie manager, but Davey Martinez knows enough about right-hander Edwin Jackson to understand that what you see from the veteran right-hander is what you get.
“He’s very low-key,” Martinez said. “He’s taking it one day at a time, and it’s good. Like I said, he’s a veteran guy and he understands the process.”
Martinez is referring to the elephant in the clubhouse, that Jackson seems to be a guy without a clear path to the 25-man roster. Jackson, who signed as a free agent with the Nats in June and made 13 second-half starts, re-signed on a minor league deal in January.
But absolutely nothing is guaranteed to him.
Right-hander A.J. Cole - whose start today Jackson is taking after Cole came down with a stomach virus - seems to be the favorite to come north as the fifth starter. If he’s not, the Nationals have rookie righty Erick Fedde waiting in the wings. The bullpen? There doesn’t seem to be a spot for Jackson, a 34-year-old who has started in 288 of his 377 major league appearances in a 15-year career.
Even an impressive spring may not be enough for Jackson to sway the decision-makers. In three Grapefruit League games, including one start, he’s posted 3.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and six strikeouts to one walk over six innings.
“He’s actually done really well,” Martinez said. “He gets it. We’ve had a conversation with him and he knows he’s got to come out and try to make the team. But he’s done well. We want to see him start, so he’s getting an opportunity to do that today.”
So what do the Nationals intend to do with Jackson?
“We haven’t made any decisions whatsoever,” the manager said. “But we like what we see. He’s a veteran guy. He’s a veteran guy. He can do multiple things - long man, maybe a fifth starter. I just like the fact that he’s competing and getting his work in.”
Martinez hopes the stomach virus that shelved Cole has been contained. So far, Cole and infielder Adrian Sanchez have missed time because of the bug, but no one else. Sending the affected players home was a pre-emptive strike, and the hand sanitizer dispenser in the clubhouse has been getting a workout.
Asked if anyone else had come down with the issue, Martinez said, “Hopefully not. Actually, this is not a bad time to go on the road.”
Cole should be fine in another couple of days, Martinez said. He’s already been stretched out to 60-65 pitches, so the missed start shouldn’t hurt him too much.
“Yesterday, he was really sick, and today he felt sick,” Martinez said. “So we’ll play it by ear.”