Jackson gets first crack at Rays

Jackson gets first crack at Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Usually, after breaking up with a significant other, you want to be looking your best when you see that person the next time -- if for nothing else, at least so they can see what they're missing.

When facing off against the Rays for the first time since being traded this offseason on Sunday, Edwin Jackson will be doing just that -- in a much different sense, of course.

But even though he's having the season of his life, the Tigers' superb right-hander isn't thinking about any sort of revenge, and he isn't really gleaming about the fact that he's starting against them with an 11-6 record and a 3.09 ERA in 27 starts this season.

He's just thinking about enjoying himself.

"It's going to be fun," Jackson said. "It's like high school all over again. In high school, you always pitch against your friends, so it will feel like high school all over again. I'm expecting it to be fun. There's no added pressure or anything. I'm not going to try to overdo it just because it's my old team. But I'm definitely going to have fun."

Jackson took a look around Tropicana Field when the Tigers arrived in St. Petersburg on Friday, and he found it all relatively the same -- except for two championship banners from last season that now hang high above the left-field stands.

"It definitely feels good to be a part of history," said Jackson, who finally got his American League championship ring before Saturday's game. "For the Rays, it was the first time they have one up, and you can always say you were part of that team."

Jackson was a big part of that team, as he went 14-11 with a 4.42 ERA in 32 games (31 starts) in 2008. The 25-year-old pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series and gave up a run in two innings in a World Series loss to the Phillies.

Then, that December, the Rays -- with a seemingly crowded starting rotation -- shipped him to Detroit for young outfielder Matt Joyce, who's hit .188 in 11 games for Tampa Bay this season.

"When you have to make those kind of choices -- and you have a glut, actually -- in advance you have to make some kind of decisions," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You can look at the ascension of E.J., and you can look at the ascension of [Jeff] Niemann also, which might have been inhibited by the fact that E.J. would've been here also. You can't have everything all the time that you'd like. There are certain moves that you have to make."

Jackson said he still keeps in touch with a lot of his ex-teammates, especially Saturday starter James Shields, who spent a lot of time with him when the Rays were in Detroit last week.

"I can't wait, I'm stoked," Shields said. "He's had an unbelievable season this year. He's one of my best friends in baseball, so I'm pretty excited to watch him pitch. He's kind of pumped up about pitching against us. He definitely still wishes he could be here, but he's moving on, obviously."

Yeah, you can say that.

After compiling a 5.50 ERA his first three years with the Dodgers, then a 5.08 ERA in three seasons with the Rays, Jackson's ERA is now fourth in the AL, and 19 of his 27 games this season have ended in quality starts.

But despite his success, he isn't bitter about his latest exit.

"I was appreciative for the time I had to play here," Jackson said. "Another stage in my career. It wasn't the first time I had gotten traded, so it's not like I was heartbroken. It's a business. That's part of the game. I wasn't surprised that I was traded. My name's been in trade rumors probably since I've gotten to Tampa Bay, so eventually you knew something was going to stick some day."

Pitching matchup
DET: RHP Edwin Jackson (11-6, 3.09 ERA)
With a month to go in what has been a breakout season for Jackson, the right-hander finally gets a matchup against the team that traded him to Detroit during the offseason for outfielder Matt Joyce. Jackson's recent struggles -- including a .302 opponents' batting average and an .889 opponents' OPS since the All-Star break and a start on Tuesday against the Indians in which he allowed four runs over five innings -- prompted manager Jim Leyland to plan a chat with Jackson, but the righty said he feels strong going into the stretch run.

TB: RHP Wade Davis (Major League debut)
Davis, one of Tampa Bay's most highly touted prospects, will make his Major League debut on Sunday, having been called up from Triple-A Durham on Wednesday. The 23-year-old right-hander, a third-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, was 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA with 140 strikeouts and just 36 walks for Durham this season. He was also the 2007 Rays Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Davis boasts a low-90s fastball to go with a strong curveball and developing changeup. Maddon also likes his competitiveness. Rays fans have been waiting a while to see him pitch. On Sunday, they'll finally get the chance.

In what was his last start for Triple-A Toledo on Saturday, Dontrelle Willis gave up two runs in 6 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and two walks while striking out five and throwing 101 pitches (60 for strikes). The Mud Hens' season ends Monday. Willis, 1-4 with a 7.49 ERA in seven starts for the Tigers this year, could be activated off the disabled list soon. But that has yet to be decided. ... Fernando Rodney, who had pitched in four of the previous six days, wasn't available on Saturday, and Leyland said it's possible he won't use him on Sunday either, which would give him at least three days of rest with Monday's off-day. ... The Tigers recalled utility man Don Kelly from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday. The 29-year-old, who played every position except pitcher and catcher for the Mud Hens, will serve as an extra left-handed hitter off the bench. ... The Tigers likely won't be calling up any more players this month, but Toledo manager Larry Parrish will join the club at some point. Parrish managed the Tigers part of 1998 and all of '99.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WXYT 1270

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Tigers (Rick Porcello, 12-8, 4.18) at Royals (Brian Bannister, 7-12, 4.73), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Tigers (Justin Verlander, 16-7, 3.29) at Royals (Robinson Tejeda, 1-1, 3.61), 8:10 p.m. ET

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