Conditioning Paying Off For Red Sox's Jacobs

FORT MYERS, FLA.—When Brandon Jacobs signed as a 10th-round pick of the Red Sox in 2009, he was best known as the running back who was signed away from Auburn. No longer.

In 2011, Jacobs flourished on the baseball field, in part because he reshaped his body and showed better athleticism. He showed the most impressive combination of speed (30 steals) and power (17 homers) of any Sox minor leaguer last year, while hitting .303/.376/.505 as a 20-year-old at low Class A Greenville.

"I love that. Those are the two best aspects of baseball. If you can get both, sky's the limit," he said. "Having those two aspects is definitely something a player wants to have for his future."

Jacobs, who was worn down by the rigors of his first pro season at short-season Lowell in 2010, has worked toward that goal over the past two offseasons. He went from 240-245 pounds at the time he signed to about 220 this spring. He stands 6-foot-1 but has also grown about a half-inch, with his body fat dropping to 10 percent. The result is a player who feels different on the field.

"I feel great. I feel like I'm gliding down to first base, gliding to get balls," Jacobs said. "I feel so much lighter. I'm not carrying all that heavy weight. It's also definitely helping my power, being able to turn on pitches with all the core work."

Farm director Ben Crockett praised the progress Jacobs made in becoming more selective and identifying pitches he could drive. He suggested that he shows the ability to grow into significant power, while also being able to impact the game with his legs.

"He does things in a lot of different areas as well as anyone in our organization," Crockett said. "The basestealing and defense are things that are kind of the next checks on his list."

Those are challenges that Jacobs—who after spending all of last year in left field, will play some center this year—seems eager to embrace.

"There was general maturity, learning, 'Hey, I need to be a complete player,' " Crockett said. "He can be. He has the skill set to do that."

Sox Yarns

• Red Sox officials raved about the defensive strides made by third baseman Will Middlebrooks during spring training.

• Lars Anderson played some left field during spring training this year in an effort to create additional big league opportunities for a player who has spent the overwhelming majority of his career at first base.