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Edwin Jackson returns to Tigers on Minors deal

Veteran right-hander back in environs of career-best 2009 season
@beckjason
July 22, 2019

DETROIT -- A decade after Edwin Jackson became an All-Star with the Tigers, the right-hander is back, agreeing to a Minor League contract as the team looks for pitching depth for the stretch run. Jackson will report to Triple-A Toledo. While Jackson set a record earlier this year by pitching

DETROIT -- A decade after Edwin Jackson became an All-Star with the Tigers, the right-hander is back, agreeing to a Minor League contract as the team looks for pitching depth for the stretch run.

Jackson will report to Triple-A Toledo.

While Jackson set a record earlier this year by pitching for his 14th Major League team when he started for the Blue Jays in May, the Tigers would be his second repeat engagement. He pitched for the Nationals in 2012 and '17.

A return to Detroit, however, would put him back where he enjoyed what remains by many standards the best of his 17 Major League seasons in 2009. Jackson, then just 25, had a 7-4 record and 2.52 ERA at the All-Star break that year, earning his first and only selection to the Midsummer Classic. Though he couldn’t keep up that pace, his 33 starts and 214 innings that year remain career bests, and his 4.2 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball-Reference is nearly double his next-highest total for a season.

The Tigers, who acquired Jackson from the Rays for Matt Joyce at the 2008 Winter Meetings, rode Jackson’s success in 2009 to the cusp of an American League Central title, falling to Ron Gardenhire’s Twins in a one-game tiebreaker. With general manager Dave Dombrowski looking to retool the roster, the Tigers sent Jackson on the move at the Winter Meetings again after the season, trading him to Arizona as part of the three-team deal that brought Max Scherzer to Detroit.

A decade later, Jackson returns to a much different Tigers organization in rebuild mode. General manager Al Avila and now-Tigers skipper Gardenhire spent the weekend weighing options for pitching depth, even before rookie Spencer Turnbull went on the 10-day injured list with an upper back strain.

Both Turnbull and Daniel Norris are on pace to test innings limits by season’s end. Add in Jordan Zimmermann’s recent struggles, the potential for a Matthew Boyd trade by next week’s Trade Deadline and the uneven development by prospects Kyle Funkhouser and Beau Burrows, and the Tigers needed veteran depth.

Enter Jackson, who was released by the Blue Jays on Friday after five starts and three relief appearances. The Jays acquired the 35-year-old in May hoping he could replicate his success from last year in Oakland, where he went 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts – including two strong outings against the Tigers.

Jackson never found that form in Toronto, where he gave up 41 runs (35 earned) on 49 hits over 28 1/3 innings with 13 walks and 19 strikeouts. While he hasn’t lost any velocity, the cutter that helped revive his career last year has been hit hard this season for a .523 batting average, a 1.045 slugging percentage and a 94.9-mph average exit velocity, according to Statcast.

Jackson is the second recently released Major League veteran the Tigers have signed in the last three weeks. Detroit signed former Cardinals and Nationals reliever Trevor Rosenthal to a similar Minor League deal on June 29 before calling him up last week.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.