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Mike Jacobs working hard, healthy and eager

Eddie Altamonte

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Marlins' Jacobs eager to start over



Lingering ankle injury hindered performance during rookie season.




By Juan C. Rodriguez

South Florida Sun-Sentinel


February 5, 2007




Jupiter is far from the worst place to winter. Yet no one would have faulted Mike Jacobs for waiting until the last possible moment to join his Marlins teammates for spring training.


Among the reasons: He got married two months ago. Last year he purchased a gorgeous residence in his hometown of Chula Vista outside San Diego. Three months ago his brother underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his digestive system. That he lives close to San Diego is worth another mention.


By arriving early, Jacobs isn't running from an unfavorable climate. He's getting a head start on the season he feels he should have had as a rookie.


"There were a lot of nights sitting at the house being pretty upset wishing I was healthy and that I was doing more and playing better," Jacobs said last week in Jupiter.


"At the same time it was my rookie year. It would have been a lot worse if I had sat out half the season. Then I'd have to come out and prove all over again I could play."


The stress reaction in his right ankle never put him on the disabled list. He played in 136 games, often with limited mobility. The combination of the injury, his struggles against left-handers and Wes Helms getting hot all contributed to Jacobs getting about 100 fewer at-bats than he wanted.


He should easily top the 500 at-bat mark this season. Nothing the Marlins have done personnel-wise suggests they'll have a platoon at first base. Right-handed hitting free-agent addition Aaron Boone is penciled in as the backup first baseman, even though he has no major league experience there.


Hitting lefties in the minors never was a problem for Jacobs, but last season's splits were startling. He batted .281 with 18 of his 20 homers off right-handers. In 88 at-bats against lefties: .182 with five walks, 26 strikeouts and a .529 on-base plus slugging percentage.


"I had an opportunity to do it and then I didn't play as well as I would have liked to, and then I was getting thrown in there every once in a while against one," said Jacobs, who has been working out in Jupiter since early January. "It's hard to face a lefty when you haven't seen a lefty for two weeks."


Jacobs doesn't bemoan Helms playing as much as he did. The right-handed hitting Helms batted .336 off lefties in 107 at-bats.


Helms now is a member of the Phillies, and Jacobs' ankle problem is behind him. He is not going to steal 20 bases, but watching him go from home to second on a ball in the gap shouldn't make Marlins fans cringe anymore.


"I don't know what kind of percent I could put on it," Jacobs said. "Obviously I wasn't 100 percent. Did if affect me? I'm sure it did, but I'm not going to use that as an excuse.


"I want to be in there every day and play every day. I definitely wasn't coming to the field saying, `I don't want to play today because my ankle hurts.'"


Jacobs was forced to make a difficult decision about coming to the field the last weekend of the season. His brother, Vincent Bucca, was diagnosed with a tumor that required surgery. After speaking with former manager Joe Girardi, Jacobs was granted permission to leave the club with three games remaining.


Bucca had already undergone the surgery, which entailed removing a portion of his intestine, when Jacobs arrived. He was with his brother when doctors told the family the tumor was benign.


"Whew, I've never seen my Mom the way she was after that," Jacobs said. "She absolutely let it all out. It was pretty amazing to see that. It was a good day, a real good day."


It's been a real good offseason, even if he hasn't spent every last minute of it in San Diego.

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