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Jackson begins key season in Bronx

Jackson begins key season in Bronx

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Edwin Jackson will make his first start of the 2008 season Saturday, and the Rays hope this will be the season the right-hander moves from potential to results.

Jackson remains an enigma because he has such an impressive arm -- a golden wing that can deliver fastballs at close to 100 mph -- yet he hasn't learned how to win.

Jackson has endured some tough times with the Rays, like the first half of the 2007 season when he went 1-9 with a 7.23 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). But he survived to have a better second half, during which he went 4-6 with a 4.48 ERA in 15 starts.

Ultimately, Jackson believes success will come to him if he can throw strikes, execute his pitches, find some consistency and "avoid big innings."

According to Rays manager Joe Maddon, many of the right-hander's problems with big innings stemmed from his tendency to hurry at times during the game, which causes him to fall out of his rhythm.

"The biggest thing with him is we're just trying to get him to learn how to focus on each pitch -- that's the best way I can explain it," Maddon said. "... Once he's able to make [the necessary adjustments], his stuff is crazy good."

Maddon believes Jackson's experience is going to help.

"I'm looking forward to him being able to recognize a potentially quick situation and slow it down mentally and make the necessary adjustments," Maddon said. "That's what's going to permit him to be good, because physically, he's very talented."

Of note in Saturday's game, Elliot Johnson, the Rays' utility infielder who started a firestorm in Spring Training when he ran over Yankees catching prospect Francisco Cervelli, will get his first Major League start. In addition, Jonny Gomes will be getting his first start of the season after serving his one-game suspension Friday night.

Pitching matchup
TB: RHP Edwin Jackson (5-15, 5.76 ERA in 2007)
Jackson is 1-1 with a 5.66 ERA in seven career appearances against the Yankees.

NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (15-9, 4.05 ERA in 2007)
Pettitte will be limited to 75-80 pitches after experiencing back spasms during Spring Training.

Tidbits
The Rays-Orioles game that was rained out Thursday night in Baltimore has been rescheduled for 5:05 p.m. ET on Sept. 23 as part of a day-night doubleheader. The Rays had two games rained out in 2007. ... Eric Hinske started at third base Friday night for the first time since July 22, 2006, when he played for the Blue Jays in a game against the Yankees in Toronto. Hinske went 2-for-5 with two doubles and two RBIs to push his average to .375. ... Scott Kazmir will throw a bullpen session Saturday morning at 9:45. Kazmir, who is on the disabled list, is expected to use all of his pitches and throw 55-60 pitches.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• ION

On radio
• WHNZ 1250, WGES 680 (Español)

Up next
• Sunday: Rays (James Shields, 1-0, 2.57) at Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 1-0, 2.57), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Rays (Jason Hammel, 3-5, 6.14 in 2007) at Yankees (Mike Mussina, 0-1, 4.76), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Rays (Matt Garza, 0-0, 8.44) vs. Mariners (TBD), 7:10 p.m. ET

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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