DETROIT — Seattle Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson will lead off Saturday night’s game against Detroit Tigers left-hander David Price, and the centerpieces of a block-buster, three-team trade made two weeks ago will face off in their new uniforms.
What will Jackson’s thoughts be when facing the pitcher he was dealt for?
"I don’t know," Jackson said. "It doesn’t make any difference to me because I have faced him a lot in the past. This obviously was the guy I was traded for, but I don’t think it will be any different than when I’ve faced him before."
Price, who is arguably the best left-hander in the American League and won the Cy Young Award in 2012, has pretty much owned the right-handed hitting Jackson. Price has allowed Jackson three hits in 17 at-bats for a .176 batting average.
The two personable players, well-liked by teammates, fans and media alike, will forever be linked by the trade. But the number once worn by both players is something they no longer have in common.
Price had worn No. 14 with the Tampa Bay Rays, and that number was available for him again because Jackson had been wearing it in Detroit.
Jackson now wears No. 16 because the Mariners, while having no numbers retired, do not offer the No. 14 worn by manager Lou Piniella or the No. 24 of Ken Griffey Jr. to current players, according to team spokesman Tim Helvy. They were the principles in Seattle’s 2001 season, which produced a major league-record 116 wins.
Jackson received a standing ovation before his first at-bat Friday night against long-time Tigers teammate Rick Porcello. On Saturday, when returning to the Seattle dugout during batting practice, the fans in the area gave Jackson a rousing ovation and he waved to them. Some wore Seattle jerseys and others were wearing Detroit gear.
"I was happy for him," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of the fan reaction. "It was well-deserved. He was a well-liked player. It’s nice to know that the place where you played at, the fans liked you."
Jackson said it was "awesome" and let him know that "I definitely touched some people" in Detroit.
Seattle won, 7-2, on Friday night. So, Jackson was all smiles despite going 0-for-5, getting caught stealing after reaching on a fielder’s choice grounder, and misplaying a double hit straight at him by Miguel Cabrera. He came in before quickly retreating and reaching in vain for the ball.
"I’d seen Miggy’s hits in batting practice," said Jackson. "But it’s a little different in batting practice. When he hit it, I thought it would be low. But it kept rising! I know when he hits it, he hits it hard."
Jackson was surrounded by former teammates Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Bryan Holaday and Tigers hitting coach Wally Joyner before Saturday’s batting practice. They shared an animated conversation, and when Jackson strode to the batting cage a fan had message she wanted to convey.
The young girl, with a ponytail coming out the back of her pink Tigers cap, held up a homemade sign behind the screen: "MISS U JACKSON."
But for all the good vibes from the folks in his old surroundings at Comerica Park, Ausmus got the root of what will happen when Jackson faces Price.
"He wants to do some damage on us," said Ausmus.
Game coverage on FOX Sports Detroit begins at 7, with Tigers Live at 6.
NOTEBOOK: Tigers first baseman Cabrera, who jammed his left thumb in tagging Jackson on Friday night, was in the lineup and batting third as expected…Detroit left fielder Andy Dirks will try for the third time to begin his 20-day rehabilitation assignment Saturday night for the Toledo Mud Hens. His back flared up the first time, and he encountered a hamstring injury a week ago in Toledo…Price and 2010 Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez face off Saturday night, but had never before started the same game. Cabrera is .417 (10-for-24) against his fellow Venezuelan and good friend.