Facing Yanks no different to Jackson
Off to hot start, Tigers outfielder feels no added pressure
DETROIT -- Before Austin Jackson was the American League Rookie of the Month for April -- before he was even the Tigers' center fielder of the present -- he was the Yankees' center fielder of the future. As far as Jackson is concerned, though, that's in the past.
"I don't look at it any different," Jackson said on Monday, when asked about his first matchup with his original organization.
Five months ago, when the Tigers traded Curtis Granderson to the Yankees to acquire Jackson and reliever Phil Coke, Monday was circled to mark Granderson's return to Detroit. With Granderson currently on the disabled list with a left groin strain, that reunion didn't take place. Johnny Damon's first game against the Yankees since signing with Detroit, of course, was big news.
Still, the bigger showdown might have been between Jackson, who has emerged as an early AL Rookie of the Year candidate, and the team that dealt him. His early performance has given Yankees fans plenty of reason to wonder why they sent him off to Detroit, while that same performance has helped soothe the wounds of Tigers fans who lost a fan favorite in Granderson.
Jackson, however, insists Monday's matchup is just another game. The same consistent focus that has helped him play so well through six weeks does not allow him to make anything special out of a meeting with the Yankees.
"I know the way my game operates," Jackson said. "I can't operate if I'm angry, if I get overexcited for a game. I just try to be even-keeled about it."
Jackson, who entered the series opener with a .371 batting average and six stolen bases, has been able to maintain that consistency so far all season. This might be the first test of that approach.
It would be different, Jackson pointed out, if he had been in the Majors a few years before getting traded. Had he actually been a New York Yankee for his big league debut, he would have something to look back on.
As it is, Jackson said, he approaches the Yankees "the same as any other team. I mean, this is my first year in the big leagues. I'm excited to play every team we go play. I get excited every game.
"Baseball isn't new, but getting to see all these new stadiums and getting to face players that I watched on TV when I was younger, that's exciting to me. I think it is to every rookie."
It's the same even to rookies who aren't hitting and fielding like rookies.
The most asked question going into the year, in hindsight, was whether Damon would still be a Yankee had New York not traded for Granderson. Now, the more pertinent question might be whether Jackson would've been in New York had he not been traded for Granderson.
Jackson wasn't touching that one.
"I guess we'll never know," Jackson said with a smile.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.