The Yankees picked up Steven Jackson when they traded Randy Johnson back to Arizona. The other pieces of that trade – Alberto Gonzalez, Ross Ohlendorf, and Luis Vizcaino – are all long gone from the organization. Jackson, probably the least heralded player in the trade at the time, remains.
Jackson is a relief pitcher with a hard, biting sinker. He struck out more than 10 batters per 9 innings in 2008, and has modest control. Jackson was an effective minor league starter for Arizona, but had trouble in Double-A after being traded to the Yankees, who converted him to the bullpen by the second half of 2007. He then spent all of 2008 relieving between Double-A and Triple-A. He has been impressive in spring training. Jackson was Rule V eligible this past December, and Brian Cashman responded by adding him to the 40-man roster. While Mark Melancon may be the future of the Yankee bullpen, guys like Steven Jackson and David Robertson are more likely to find themselves as the immediate replacements for injured Yankee relievers due to their spot on the 40-man.
How good could Jackson be? Its hard to tell. I haven’t the pleasure of watching Yankees spring training baseball here in Providence, but Moshe tells me that Jackson is looking pretty good so far. His filthy stuff and poor control makes me think a bit about Juan Cruz, although its highly unlikely that he’ll ever be that good. Jackson has put in some pretty long relief outings for Scranton and Trenton, and could be a mild darkhorse to take the long relief spot away from Alfredo Aceves and Dan Giese. However, it is much more likely that Jackson returns to the minors and waits his turn behind Robertson and the loser of that battle.