PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Diamondbacks traded outfielder Conor Jackson to the Oakland Athletics for minor league closer Sam Demel on Tuesday, the first of what could be a series of moves by the sputtering team.
Demel, a 24-year-old right-hander, was third-round draft pick out of TCU in 2007. He 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA and six saves in 28 appearances for Triple-A Sacramento this season.
The 28-year-old Jackson was batting .238 with a home run, 11 doubles and 11 RBIs in 42 games for Arizona. He missed all but the first 30 games of last season after contracting "valley fever," an illness that brings on extreme fatigue.
Athletics manager Bob Geren said he saw Jackson as the A's regular left fielder and could use him at different spots in the order.
"I think he'll do a lot for our offense," Geren said before Tuesday night's game against the Chicago Cubs. "He's a guy that's a high average hitter. ... He seems like a similar hitter to Daric Barton on the right side. He's patient. Has a good knowledge of the strike zone. His on-base percentage is up. He can drive the ball into the gap and hit some home runs. He's a pretty complete player, and I look forward to watching him."
Jackson arrived at Wrigley Field about 10 minutes before the first pitch in a game that was delayed 1 hour, 41 minutes. He went out to left field in the seventh and grounded out in the ninth, and Geren plans to start him on Wednesday.
"I'm pumped to be here," Jackson said. "The change of scenery is good for me."
In the release announcing the trade, Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes called Jackson "a class act" and wished him well with the Athletics.
Jackson was Arizona's first-round draft pick, the 19th selection overall, out of the University of California in 2003. He has a .277 career batting average
From 2006-08, Jackson was among the Diamondbacks' most consisted hitters. He hit .291 with 79 RBIs in 2006, .284 with 60 RBIs in 2007 and .300 with 75 RBIs in 2008. Unlike several of his strikeout-laden teammates, Jackson has fanned just 229 times in 1,775 at bats in parts of six major league seasons. In 2008, he ranked ninth hardest to strike out in the National League.
Finally healthy, Jackson began this season as Arizona's everyday right fielder but struggled at the plate and often was replaced by Gerardo Parra. Lately, Jackson's performance had picked up. He had hits in eight of his last 10 games, batting .289 in that span.
"He's batted anywhere from leadoff to seventh in his career," Geren said. "The majority of his at-bats have been two, three, four, five, and he has led off a little bit, but I don't see him in that role. ... We'll see how it looks on paper when we get back to the American League and balance it out. Maybe it depends on who we play. I feel pretty comfortable with him batting in a lot of different spots."
Byrnes said via e-mail that Demel will probably report to the major league club but will not be the closer. Demel has a 90 to 95 mph fastball with a good slider, Byrnes said. The general manager said Demel is working on a cutter and has a "usable" changeup.
Along with strikeouts, the Diamondbacks biggest problem has been the bullpen, statistically by far the worst in the majors. Manager A.J. Hinch already had said he would explore other options at closer. Chad Qualls, 1-3 with an 8.46 ERA, has blown four saves in 16 chances. That doesn't count his last appearance on Sunday against St. Louis, when he didn't make it through the ninth but his replacement Esmerling Valdez allowed the tying run to score from third on a wild pitch. Arizona came back to win 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth on Chris Young's home run.
In four minor league seasons, Demel is 9-8 with a 2.67 ERA. He has averaged just under 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
In a corresponding move, Arizona activated infielder Tony Abreu from the disabled list. He sprained his left wrist making a tag on May 23.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.