Here's the first number I'd like to start with: 27. As in, Jackson, amazingly enough, is just 27 years old.
It almost seems impossible for Jackson to be on the short side of 30, but he was just a baby, remember, when he began as a highly-touted prospect with the Dodgers back in 2003. He's been well-traveled since then, switching organizations five times, but you get the idea his second tour of duty with the White Sox will last a while.
Jackson was utterly dominant in his Thursday start against Tampa, allowing just four hits and one run over eight innings while piling up 13 strikeouts. Here's your mandatory scouting video. This is what a potential ace looks like; this is what a dominant pitcher does when he gets ahead in the count. Say goodnight, Gracie.
Jackson was added en masse over the last 12 hours, but he's still unowned in 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Time to get that number fixed, gamers; Jackson should be close to the universally-owned level. Jackson came with the intriguing upside from the moment he came out of the box; he's already got a no-hitter to his credit; he's coming off an 181-strikeout campaign; and he's at an age where career seasons happen. The White Sox figure to keep him sufficiently nourished with run and bullpen support. He's capable of dominating with multiple pitches. What's not to like here?
Two of my favorite AL arms will go head to head next Tuesday in Chicago when Jackson opposes Trevor Cahill(notes). The Oakland righty is four years younger than Jackson but no less intriguing; he was highly regarded during his minor-league days, and he came through with a snappy breakthrough year in 2010 (18 wins, 2.97 ERA, 1.11 WHIP).
The Regression Police had a field day with Cahill over the winter – his modest strikeout numbers and favorable .236 BABIP raised eyebrows. But "expect regression" is not an answer in and of itself – the key is to focus where the player might land in the follow-up season. Many of the Cahill critics ignored three key factors in the pitcher's favor: Oakland's still got a plus defense; Cahill's home park is roomy and pitcher-friendly; and a young talented pitcher should be able to expand his strikeout numbers as he matures.
I've buried the lede a bit with Cahill – he was plenty impressive in his Thursday turn at Toronto, working eight sterling innings (3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K, video here) and grabbing a win. I love the consistent movement he gets on his fastball, and his curve looks vastly improved as well. Cahill's first start wasn't as successful but he collected eight whiffs in that outing; looks like he's maturing before our eyes. Even in mixed leagues that use a cap on innings pitched, Cahill has earned a spot in the circle of trust.
• Second base is the collision position in the infield, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka(notes) felt the brunt of it Thursday. He suffered a broken leg courtesy of a Nick Swisher(notes) take-out slide; the Minnesota infielder will be out several weeks. Luke Hughes(notes), who hit six homers in spring training, is going to be recalled Friday and will probably get a chance to settle in at second base, with Matt Tolbert(notes) the likely fallback plan.
• Ryan Raburn(notes) better hurry up and mark his territory if he wants to be a mixed-league option this year. Raburn went 0-for-4 with three punchouts in Thursday's loss, while Brennan Boesch(notes) continued his hot start (two hits, now up to .421). Granted, Boesch still hasn't drawn a walk through 19 at-bats and we saw him crash and burn last year, but his early-season rally certainly makes things more complicated for the corner outfielders in Detroit. The best pro-case for Boesch right now is that he's been batting third, in front of Miguel Cabrera(notes).
Handshakes and other bullpen notes: Nothing ever comes easy for Brandon Lyon(notes), but he escaped against the Reds. Brandon Phillips(notes) and Joey Votto(notes) collected hits, but the game ended on a sharp infield out. … Chris Perez(notes) gave up a walk and an infield hit, but the game ended after that when Darnell McDonald(notes) overran second base and was tagged out. The Red Sox desperately need their upcoming homestand. … Rafael Perez(notes) got the win for the Indians, looking nasty in a two-batter stint, while Boston's Daniel Bard(notes) once again struggled to find his release point (walking Adam Everett(notes) on five pitches, starting off the winning rally, is inexcusable). … Brian Fuentes(notes) worked a scoreless ninth in Toronto, wrapping a strikeout and two fly outs around a single.
Six scoreless bullpen innings carried the Nats at Florida, with Sean Burnett(notes) finishing up. The Marlins gave Leo Nunez(notes) the night off after two days of work; normally you'd see the home-team closer pitching in a tie game during the top of the ninth (since a save chance is no longer possible). Adam LaRoche(notes) provided the margin of victory, crushing a flat Edward Mujica(notes) slider into the right-field seats. … John Axford(notes) needed 17 pitches to put the Braves away, but at least 15 of them were strikes. … The Orioles had a four-run victory over Detroit, so Koji Uehara(notes) worked the ninth, not Kevin Gregg(notes). Uehara worked a clean inning, striking out one. … The Yankees bullpen was back in business in a one-run victory over Minnesota; Joba Chamberlain(notes) allowed an unearned run in the seventh, Rafael Soriano(notes) retired three of four men in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera(notes) recorded a 1-2-3 ninth.
Injury Blog: Michael Stanton(notes) (hamstring) appeared as a pinch hitter, striking out. He should be back in Florida's lineup at some point this weekend. … Yunel Escobar(notes) suffered what's being called a minor concussion and is considered day-to-day, though I doubt we'll see him this weekend. … J.J. Hardy was scratched due to a sore ribcage. … Brandon Morrow (elbow) wasn't sharp in a rehab start at Single-A, allowing five runs over three innings. The plan was for him to make at least two starts in the minors before rejoining the Blue Jays. … Takashi Saito(notes) (hamstring) is considered day-to-day. … Jason Bay(notes) did some hitting off a tee Thursday. … Grady Sizemore(notes) (knee) played a minor-league rehab game at Triple-A, going 1-for-3. Buster Olney says Sizemore is about 10-14 days away from a return.
Speed Round: Alex Avila(notes) is sorry to leave Baltimore - he had two homers and four hits over the last two days. … Ian Desmond(notes) had two hits and a couple of steals for the Nats, so Jim Riggleman should be done jerking him around for now. Desmond had four hits the previous night. … Josh Johnson(notes) (6 IP, 3 R, 1 ER) probably deserved a better fate, but Hanley Ramirez(notes) and John Buck(notes) made errors and Ramirez was mercifully spared a second error on a grounder that should have been secured. … Carlos Gomez(notes) and Nyjer Morgan(notes) were both in Milwaukee's lineup Thursday, but that will end soon when Corey Hart(notes) is ready to play again. … Unheralded Esmil Rogers(notes) cruised at Pittsburgh (7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K) and grabbed a victory for the Rockies. Troy Tulowitzki(notes) clubbed his third homer in support.
Adam Lind(notes) had a hit off Fuentes and is now 5-for-12 against lefties, an encouraging sign given that Lind was utterly helpless against southpaws in 2010 (.117/.159/.182). … Jon Lester(notes) and Fausto Carmona(notes) traded zeroes for seven innings before the bullpens decided things in Cleveland. Marco Scutaro(notes) reached base three times for Boston. … Every Philadelphia starter did something of note in an 11-0 laugher over the Mets. Jonathon Niese(notes) was roughed up on the other side (4 IP, 6 R), but at least he struck out seven before departing. … Bryce Harper(notes) had two hits and a stolen base in his minor-league debut, and we're pretty sure the angels wept. … The Rays have a sorry .145/.217/.253 slash line through their six defeats, with just eight runs scored (cue the sarcastic music). Things aren't much better with the Red Sox: .181/.269/.275, 16 runs.
Images courtesy Associated Press