- - Monday, March 12, 2018

LAKELAND, Fla. — Edwin Jackson, done for the day after throwing three innings, jogged from the visiting Nationals third-base dugout to behind home plate here Monday afternoon.

But the veteran 34-year-old pitcher was delayed before he made it to the visiting clubhouse down the right-field line. Jackson stopped to say hello near the first-base dugout to a Tigers athletic trainer and then Detroit infielder Alexi Amarista, his teammate with the San Diego Padres in 2016.

Jackson has been playing in the majors since 2003 and has pitched for 12 teams, one shy of the record. So it’s no surprise the right-hander knows someone in nearly every opposing dugout.

Would he like to break the record and play for 14?

“Not right now,” he said with a grin. “I’d rather be here right now (with the Nationals). I still feel like I have something to bring to the table.”

Jackson, aiming for the No. 5 spot in the Nationals rotation, had an uneven outing in a 5-4 win against the Tigers. He was filling in for fellow righty A.J. Cole, who came down with a stomach bug a few days ago and is another candidate for the fifth spot.

Jackson gave up three hits and one earned run in three innings with two walks and two strikeouts against 13 batters. He threw 51 pitches, 25 for strikes, and one of his strikeouts came as Tigers catcher John Hicks, a former University of Virginia standout, swung through a pitch on the outside corner in the last of the second inning.

“I liked what I saw,” rookie Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Jackson. “He really did well.”

Jackson got a break when the slow-footed Edwin Espinal, the Tigers first baseman, was thrown out at a home on a relay after Washington left fielder Andrew Stevenson almost made a diving catch of a double off the bat of Jacoby Jones in the third.

“I will take that any day,” Jackson said of allowing just one run despite a lot of base runners in the third inning.

Jackson was quick to praise his defense, including shortstop Reid Brignac and second baseman Wilmer Difo on a day that very few Nationals projected starters made the trek across the state from their spring training home in West Palm Beach.

Jackson made his big league debut when he was 19, so fighting for a roster spot is nothing new.

He was born in Germany to a military family and went to high school in Georgia. Jackson was 10-11 with an ERA of 4.03 in 31 starts for Washington in 2012 and then began last year in the minor leagues with the Baltimore Orioles.

“This time last year I was in Arizona throwing bullpens, staying ready” for a call, he said.

Once he came to Washington he was 5-6 with a 5.07 ERA in 13 starts last year. For his career he is 98-120 in 377 games, with 288 starts, and an ERA of 4.67.

“It is easy to get caught up in the roles,” Jackson said. “I want to put pressure on the organization to make a move; they know what I can do. I just want to go out and have fun. I feel like I can help this team. It’s a special team” that has won the past two National League East division titles.

Former Cubs ace Jake Arrieta was eliminated as a possible member of the Washington staff when he signed earlier this week with the Phillies, who finished 31 games back of the Nationals last season. Some felt the Nationals were a possible landing spot for the former Oriole, since his agent is Scott Boras.

If Jackson breaks camp with the Nationals this spring, it will be the first time since pitching for the Chicago Cubs in 2014-15 that he has played for the same team in back-to-back years.

“We haven’t made any decisions whatsoever,” Martinez told reporters before the game about Jackson. “But we like what we see. 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.”


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