Illness in rearview, Jackson hopes to impress


Illness in rearview, Jackson hopes to impress

By Sean McAdam Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

BOSTON -- In 2006, his first full season in the big leagues, Conor Jackson hit 15 home runs, a figure he matched a year later, in 2007.

Since then, however, the newest member of the Red Sox, obtained minutes before midnight Wednesday, has hit a total of 21 homers over the last four seasons, covering more than 1,500 at-bats.

Even as a highly-rated prospect, Jackson was never projected as a true power threat and was instead viewed as more of a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter. But still, the dropoff was stark.

It's possible the drop could be attributed to reduced playing time or a move away from homer-friendly Chase Field in Phoenix.

Or, it's possible, as some in baseball believe, that Jackson's numbers dipped after he contracted Valley Fever, a viral infection which usually targets residents of the Southwest.

Coccidioidomycosis, as it's officially known, takes the form of a mold spore. Inhaling the particles can result in flu-like symptoms and a general weakening of the body, resulting in lethargy, often for long periods of time.

"I can't say that I've lost power or lost strength," said Jackson. "I feel stronger, or just as strong as I did in 2008."

Jackson first felt ill in the first week or so of 2008, but it took five or six weeks to properly diagnose the condition.

"It's like (having) mono -- on steroids," said Jackson with a chuckle. "I felt tired, really fatigued . . . I lost weight, lost my appetite.

"A lot of people get it and shrug it off, like it's a cold. Some people might get it and their immune system might find something else and it kind of metastasizes and spreads."

As the condition went undiagnosed, Jackson naturally found the downturn in his health "concerning. At first, I just wasn't playing well, but I thought it (was the result) of stress because I wasn't hitting that well. I was sleeping a lot, 14-15 hours a day.

"It finally got to the point where we had to figure out what it was. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. I think we caught in a timely fashion."

When told of the diagnosis, Jackson didn't know what it was, much less the consequences.

"Snowboarders get it and they come back to the East Coast and doctors there don't know what it is," said Jackson. "It's definitely something that's indigenous to the desert area."

While some severe cases require ongoing treatment and lifelong use of medication, Jackson's case wasn't deemed that serious.

The trade to the Red Sox, completed late Wednesday night, caught him by surprise. But he was happy to learn of the deal.

"It's exciting," he said. "I'm coming from a team that's 15 games out to a team that's in the middle of a pennant race, and playing in the A.L. East and probably one of the friendliest fan parks in the game."

Jackson can play first base and both corner outfield spots and is eager to contribute.

"Whatever they need," he said. "It's probably going to be a bat off the bench and here and there playing against left-handers. Whatever my goal's going to be or whatever my role is going to be, I'm going to be ready for it and be prepared."

Jackson was hitting just .249 with Oakland and is hitless in his last 21 at-bats.

"It's definitely been a down year for me statistically," he said. " But I've helped my stock a little bit by playing multiple positions, playing left, and playing right, playing third a little bit, playing first. Hopefully I'll get some ABs and impress some people here."

Sean McAdam can be reached at Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic


Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic


Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.