SEATTLE -- Mariners center fielder Austin Jackson elevated his rehab program to running agility drills in the outfield Friday afternoon and appears close to heading out on a Minor League rehab stint as he recovers from a sprained right ankle.
Jackson, 28, is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, though he's unlikely to be ready that soon since manager Lloyd McClendon will want him to get some at-bats with Triple-A Tacoma once he's cleared for game action after being sidelined since May 3.
"It's pretty good today," said Jackson. "This is probably my best day yet. The last couple days I've been able to run the bases and yesterday getting in the outfield and tracking down some balls and shagging, that's a big plus for me. The cuts you have to make in the outfield are some of the toughest you're going to make because you're starting and stopping so frequently. That was the real test for me and it felt good."
McClendon said Friday's drills to further test his ability to stop and start and change directions were one of the last steps and "he should be close." But the manager said he didn't know how much time Jackson will need in Tacoma, saying like any position player on rehab assignment that he'll need to be swinging the bat well before getting recalled.
Jackson was hitting .242 with 11 runs and five stolen bases in his first 25 games before twisting his ankle while stepping on the first-base bag trying to beat out a grounder in Houston. Jackson is a career .273 hitter in six Major League seasons and McClendon values his presence at the top of the lineup as well as in center field, where Dustin Ackley and Justin Ruggiano have split time in his absence.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.