Zduriencik on the importance of Mariners leadoff man Jackson

Mar 8, 2015, 6:47 PM | Updated: Apr 7, 2015, 4:05 pm
The Mariners are counting on Austin Jackson to return to form after a disappointing end to the 2014...
The Mariners are counting on Austin Jackson to return to form after a disappointing end to the 2014 season. (AP)

Expectations have been a big talking point heading into the 2015 season for the Seattle Mariners. Expectations that the team will challenge for a playoff berth. Expectations that the rotation will be one of the best in baseball. Expectations that the offense will finally crawl out of the bottom half of the MLB.

If that last expectation is to happen, it won’t just be up to the three big names in the middle of the order – Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. A lot of the responsibility also falls to leadoff man and center fielder Austin Jackson.

A trade deadline acquisition last year, Jackson struggled in the two months he spent in a Mariners uniform, posting a slash line of .229/.267/.260 in 54 games. Seattle needs much better numbers than that at the top of the order from the 28-year-old Jackson, who hit .300 for Detroit in 2012 and hovered in the .270s in 2013 and 2014 with the Tigers.

The importance of production from Jackson has been brought up numerous times during the offseason by Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach in Detroit until McClendon came to Seattle before the 2014 season. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik certainly understands where McClendon’s coming from, as he told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” on Friday.

“I think the thing with Austin Jackson is Lloyd knows him so well,” Zduriencik said. “He knows the really good player that he had in Detroit. He saw the good things out of him. He saw him (play) really good defensively, he saw him be a really good offensive player for them.”

And having seen what he’s capable of in person for so long, hitting under .250 and posting a sub-.300 on-base percentage isn’t something McClendon and the rest of the Mariners want to see out of Jackson, especially with the All-Stars hitting behind him.

“You know last year he had an OK August and didn’t have a good September. I think (McClendon) feels that the best player we have not seen yet (is Jackson),” Zduriencik said. “He’s a great kid, great young man, did a nice job in center field last year. (He) should be a real good player for us.”

No starting pitcher.

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Zduriencik on the importance of Mariners leadoff man Jackson