Jackson Amazes Team

Times Staff Writer

The Dodger clubhouse was still abuzz Wednesday about the debut of rookie starter Edwin Jackson.

The right-hander got off to a Hollywood-type beginning, working six strong innings in Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It was an off-the-chart opening under any circumstances for someone making the jump from double A. But Jackson was pitching in a tight National League wild-card race, on his 20th birthday, on the road while opposing five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson.

"What I saw was amazing," said closer Eric Gagne, who earned his 50th save in the game. "He got the big outs when he needed, and he was emotionally in control. Just amazing."

Jackson's poise was as impressive as his 98-mph fastball, the Dodgers said.

"He was challenging people, changing speeds, 91 to 98, and he wasn't intimidated by anyone," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "When you see a 20-year-old kid throwing 98, and going after guys ... he looked great to me."

Jackson's outing even brought a smile to the face of pitcher Kevin Brown.

"He's got great stuff," Brown said. "Great fastball, great breaking ball and he threw strikes.

"There's not a whole lot more to ask of a guy, especially at that age. If he stays healthy, he's going to pitch up here a long time."

If Hideo Nomo (rotator cuff inflammation) does not respond well in today's bullpen session, Jackson will start against the San Diego Padres on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

Although pitching coach Jim Colborn said Nomo is "getting stronger by the day," Jackson is preparing to start.

"Right now, I have to, because I haven't heard anything," said the club's 2002 minor league pitcher of the year. "If I wasn't going to, I would still continue to do everything, just in case something comes up and I need to pitch again."

Jackson appreciates the warm reception he has received.

"Everybody's congratulating me, telling you how good of a job you've done," he said. "It definitely feels good to know that you're welcome with open arms."

Manager Jim Tracy said Jackson has provided a boost down the stretch in the wild-card chase.

"He reminds me of Dwight Gooden," Tracy said of the 1985 National League Cy Young Award winner. "His mannerisms and the way he begins his delivery.... It's easy gas."

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Left-hander Wilson Alvarez, who has pitched well as a reliever and starter, hopes to return in a utility role next season.

"This is very good for me," he said. "I'd like to do the same thing next season; be in the bullpen and then start whenever they need me.

"There's going to be five starters here next year, so that's good. I don't want to go anywhere else, because [General Manager] Danny Evans gave me the chance to be somebody again. That means a lot to me."

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Shawn Green was among those the Diamondbacks accused of stealing signs in the third inning Tuesday.

"Whatever they thought was going on, they were wrong," he said. "Maybe they thought that because of the way we were hitting the ball. It's happened before where we get some hits, and all of a sudden we're stealing signs."

Tracy declined to comment.

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Center fielder Dave Roberts, who has a stiff neck, was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game.

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