Jacobs savors fresh start
Hampered by ankle injury in '06, slugger now at full strength
MIAMI -- On one leg, Mike Jacobs had a pretty respectable first full season in the big leagues. Now the 26-year-old Marlins first baseman is eager to find out what he can do standing on two healthy feet.
Hampered by a right ankle ailment since last Spring Training, Jacobs basically gutted out a 2006 campaign, where he batted .262 with 20 home runs and 77 RBIs.
Playing in pain limited him somewhat, especially playing defense where the discomfort was most noticeable.
Jacobs' ankle was termed a stress reaction. Had it progressed into a stress fracture, he could have had considerably more trouble. He said had it reached that point, one option was to insert a screw into the ankle.
Once last season ended, it was recommended that Jacobs not put too much pressure on the ankle. So he ended up having a restful past few months.
"I stayed off it as much as possible," the San Diego resident said. "I tried not to be out, running around and doing anything crazy. I kind of laid low at the house. I'd basically go home and try to chill for the most part the rest of the day. I pretty much stayed off it."
Florida's Spring Training camp opens on Feb. 17 with pitchers and catchers reporting to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.
To get a jump on Spring Training, Jacobs has spent the past few weeks in South Florida.
Jacobs also is ready for a new season with some more peace of mind. He had an excused absence for the final three games of 2006 because of family reasons. His brother, Vincent, was diagnosed with a tumor that required surgery. So Jacobs returned to San Diego.
Vincent's surgery required removing a portion of his intestine. Fortunately, the operation was a success, and he was cleared of a cancer scare.
"I've never seen my mom the way she was after that," Jacobs said of the relief that his brother would be fine. "She let it all out. It was pretty amazing to see that. It was a good day, a real good day."
A year ago, Jacobs started off being the everyday first baseman. For the most part he remained that way, but late in the season he split time with Wes Helms.
Now that Helms has signed with the Phillies, first base is clearly Jacobs'.
"I don't know what kind of percent I could put on it, but obviously I wasn't 100 percent [last year]," Jacobs said. "Did it affect me? I'm sure it did, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse. I want to be an everyday player. I definitely wasn't coming to the field saying, 'I don't want to play today because my ankle hurt.'"
Backing up Jacobs will be veteran Aaron Boone, a career third baseman who will play first base for the first time as a big leaguer.
Boone basically will assume the role vacated by Helms. He is a right-handed bat off the bench who is being groomed at first base, and he can also give All-Star Miguel Cabrera a breather at third.
Jacobs understands the job is his to lose. And a area of his game he is looking to improve on is hitting left-handed pitching. Against lefties, he batted .182 with two home runs and 11 RBIs, compared to .281 with 18 home runs and 66 RBIs facing right-handers.
"I think I played well enough last year to prove I should be out there mostly every day," Jacobs said. "Obviously, I didn't do well against lefties, but I've said all along that I've hit well against lefties in the Minor Leagues, in the past. It's one of those things, I think I had an opportunity in the beginning, and I didn't do as well as I'd like to, then I was thrown in there every once in a while against lefties."
Once he found himself in a platoon situation, Jacobs labored even more against lefties because he went long stretches without facing them.
"It's kind of hard to face a lefty when you hadn't seen a lefty for two weeks," he said. "Hopefully in Spring Training, I'll face a lot of lefties and get more at-bats against them."
Heading into Spring Training, Jacobs is hitting off a machine that simulates left-handers and lefty breaking balls.
What baffles him is the fact that in his Minor League career, he posted solid numbers off southpaws.
"The biggest difference between here and the Minor Leagues against lefties is here they throw a lot more breaking balls," Jacobs said. "And lefties don't give in to lefties. There is no reason to, because there is not a big group of guys who just crush lefties.
"I'm an aggressive hitter and that kind of hurts me against left-handers. Hopefully, I'll hit off lefties and I'll hit off the machine that throws curveballs to lefties, and stay with it."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.