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Jacobs practiced all spring with the higher-level club, and he wants to get back there quickly.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Outfielder Brandon Jacobs was a little shocked to be playing for Salem again at the beginning of this season, but he says he’s healthy and has learned to pace himself better, improvements that he says will help him prove he’s ready for a permanent promotion.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Red Sox outfielder Brandon Jacobs says every year he learns what he can and can’t do — both of which are important to helping him achieve his goals.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
If Brandon Jacobs has his way, tonight’s home opener at Salem Memorial Ballpark will be one of your final opportunities to see him play.
Nothing against this city or its fans, of course. But after spending all of last year with the Salem Red Sox, Jacobs is hoping to prove quickly that he deserves a shot at Double-A.
He almost started there this year. The solidly built outfielder stayed with the Double-A club until the final few days of spring training, when Red Sox officials met with him and explained that he’d be heading down for another crack at the Carolina League.
“The first day, I was a little shocked and a little upset,” Jacobs said. “I think everybody would be upset if they got sent down from a place where they had their goal set.
“But the day after that, it was just like, ‘I’ve got to go out there and play. Whether it’s Lowell, Greenville, Salem, Portland, Pawtucket — wherever it is — it’s my job to go out there and perform and show that I can play at any level.’ ”
Salem manager Billy McMillon has seen him do it. He had Jacobs two years ago at low-A Greenville, where the Georgia native slugged 17 homers, drove in 80 runs and stole 30 bases. That breakout season got Jacobs ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the Red Sox system heading into last year.
After a strong start at Salem, Jacobs battled injuries and fatigue late in the year, hitting .252 with 30 doubles, 13 homers and 61 RBIs.
“He’s got to prove that he’s healthy and maintain the consistency that he had in the first half of the season last year,” McMillon said. “It probably wasn’t within the last week to 10 days that they made the decision to bring him back to this level.
“In my mind, if he gets off to a hot start, he could be out of here soon.”
The two players who started in Salem’s outfield with Jacobs on opening day last year both have moved up. Rightfielder Shannon Wilkerson is in Double-A, while centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. earned a surprise spot on Boston’s opening day roster with a scorching spring.
Still, at 22, Jacobs is younger than both of those guys. He has time. And even though he dropped to 13th on Baseball America’s list of Boston prospects this year, he’s still considered one of most promising power hitters in the system.
Jacobs went 4-for-23 (.174) on Salem’s season-opening six game road trip, but he did connect for his first home run at Potomac on Tuesday. More importantly, he feels healthy — something he couldn’t say most of the second half of last year.
Jacobs, a bruising high school running back who committed to Auburn for football before signing with the Red Sox as a 10th round pick, battled a hamate injury that contributed to his second-half slump. He took a little time off, but probably not enough.
“Kind of with the football mentality, you play through anything,” Jacobs said. “And with baseball, there’s certain things that you kind of want to take more precaution with. I don’t know if I came back too early or not, but I think it definitely affected my mechanics.”
Admittedly worn down near the end of the year, Jacobs said he took only three days off from weight training when last season ended. The Sox cleared him to start swinging a bat again in early December.
Now in his third full season in pro ball, he has a better grasp of how to pace himself for the grind.
“You kind of mature and understand your body and what aspects of the game you’re capable of and not capable of,” he said. “After every year, each player kind of realizes some things they can’t do. And I think that’s important as a baseball player, to know your limits.”
It’s important to identify your goals, too. Jacobs knows his: to swing his way to Portland, Maine.
“I don’t expect him to be here for the entire year,” McMillon said. “He’s demonstrated in the past the ability to make some adjustments. We just want to make sure he can do that at the beginning of this season and wait for the opportunity above him.”
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