The last few months have not been the proudest of Conor Jackson's career.
The utilityman was released by the Rangers at the end of Spring Training. After signing with the White Sox, he began the year at Triple-A for the first time since 2005. That return to the Minors didn't go quite as planned as he hit .200 (19-for-95) with four homers and nine RBIs over his first 29 games with Charlotte before an opponent's errant slide into third fractured his left hand.
"It's been frustrating, there's no other way to put it," said Jackson, who also missed most of 2009 after contracting valley fever. "I wasn't playing too well before the injury happened. That's the worst part. Just having to sit there on those numbers, it's tough to stomach. But I only had 95 at-bats, which was good because all it takes is having a good week for those numbers to turn around."
And it looks like he might be having that "good week."
Jackson homered three times and drove in the first four Charlotte runs in the Knights' 5-4 win in 10 innings over Columbus on Thursday. It marked the only time in his professional career that the 30-year-old hit a trio of round-trippers and the first multi-homer game since Aug. 10, 2007 for the D-backs.
The 2003 first-round pick launched a solo blast in the second inning and a two-run shot in the sixth to pull the Knights within one. He then stepped into the box again with two outs in the eighth and tied the ballgame by driving a 3-1 fastball by Frank Herrmann to left field.
By his own admission, Jackson couldn't offer precisely why he went deep so many times.
"That's the crazy thing about baseball, you can't explain it," he said. "When you leave the locker room, you just have to come back tomorrow and treat it like any other day. That's the way I look at it. Whether I'm 4-for-4 or 0-for-4, you look at it the same way. This game is filled by such highs and lows, it'll eat you up if you get caught in it.
"I'll cherish this night, though. I was just looking to get back strong. It was one of those nights when you wish you could have 10 at-bats."
Jackson looked like he might have a chance for more heroics in the 10th frame when the bases were loaded and he stood in the on-deck circle with only one out. But Herrmann threw a wild pitch that allowed Osvaldo Martinez to speed home from third for a walk-off win. Still, even with everything he performed beforehand, Jackson acknowledged if he couldn't have 10 more at-bats, he would have settled for one.
"Absolutely," said the White Sox farmhand. "Even if I was 0-for-4, I want a chance to win the game. That's just the competitor that I am, and I think everyone else on that field is."
Thursday's 3-for-4, four-RBI performance came one day after Jackson went 4-for-5 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Over those two games, Jackson has improved his average to .239 while doubling his home run output to six on the season.
Those numbers won't be sending the Texas native to Chicago's South Side anytime soon, but he knew that was the chance he was taking by signing a Minor League deal with the White Sox in the spring.
"I knew I was going to Triple-A," he said. "I've basically spent the last few years as a utility guy, a spot starter in the Majors. So I was OK going to Triple-A because I knew it meant I'd be playing every day. That was a step I need to get to back to the player I was, and I looked forward to the opportunity."