Jackson Has Been Brilliant in His last 6 Starts
Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi was watching the New Hampshire Fisher Cats play on Wednesday evening, and it was not a coincidence that their 2004 first round draft choice was making his Double-A debut. Jackson talked with InsideTheDome on Thursday morning following his impressive debut and answered some of our questions.
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The Toronto Blue Jays drafted the left-hand pitcher in the supplemental round of the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft out of Texas A&M University. Jackson was originally drafted as a high school senior during the 2001 draft by the Chicago White Sox in the 50th round of the 2001 draft. Below is a transcript of our interview with Zach.
ITD: Zach, First of all congratulations on your debut last night. Did you expect such a prompt promotion to Double-A?
Zach Jackson: Thank you, I know all I can control is what I do on the field and I can’t control what the organization has in store for me. All I can do is go out and concentrate on pitching my game. For me to get called up this quick was a true blessing and I am very happy and excited that it happened this quickly.
ITD: Can you give us a scouting report on yourself? What pitches do you feature in your repertoire?
Zach Jackson: I throw two different fastballs. One is a two-seam fastball, which is more of a sinker, and the other is a four seam fastball. I also throw a changeup, a slider and a cutter. I would say my most improved pitch has been my cutter and my changeup. My two-seamer has been a good early pitch for me to induce a ground balls early in the count. My velocity is generally in the 87-91 range.
ITD: What are some of your hobbies off the baseball field?
Zach Jackson: I have a lot of family, and enjoy spending time with them during the off-season. Other than that, just going out and hang out with my friends, go to movies, listen to music. I also like boating as a hobby. We had a boat for sixteen years when I was in Pittsburgh and enjoyed that.
ITD: You transferred to Texas Tech for the 2004 season. Why did you make that decision?
Zach Jackson: It just wasn’t the right fit for me. I had an incredible opportunity there [University of Louisville], but I just wasn’t making the improvements that I wanted personally in my game, and needed a change of atmosphere.
ITD: Were you always a pitcher and did you know at a young age that pitching would be your future?
Zach Jackson: To be honest, my first love was playing first base and hitting. I was a left-hander and could always throw hard since a young age, so whether I wanted to or not my path was the mound, especially when I grew into my body and became 6’5. A 6’5 left-hander, who can throw hard, will find himself on the mound one way or another. In high school I loved to swing the bat, and was recruited by couple of schools to be a first baseman and pitch on the weekend. I also set a few school records for hitting, and currently hold the home run record.
ITD: Do you miss hitting and standing at the plate?
Zach Jackson: I do miss it. Guys will laugh now since I haven’t done it for so long, but you feel that you are more involved [being a two way player] and you also have another opportunity to contribute.
ITD: J.P. Ricciardi was at the game last night. Did you know that prior to taking the mound, and did that add any more pressure?
Zach Jackson: I didn’t realize it until I just finished stretching and went to toss with my catcher. I then saw him walking down with his two children. It wasn’t any more added pressure, and you always have to go out and perform no matter who is watching, or even if nobody is watching. I wasn’t trying to put any pressure on myself, but was real excited to see how I would match up against those guys.
ITD: Do you have a favorite player in the Major Leagues, or a player you model your game after?
Zach Jackson: I have always enjoyed watching Andy Pettite, and how he goes about his business. I enjoy his demeanor on the field and his composure. If I had to pick a player, it would be him, but I like to watch a bunch of those left-handers, pick up a little thing here and there, and see what we can put together.
ITD: You began the season with an ERA over 5.00 in April for Dunedin, and then went 5-0 with a 0.82 ERA in May. Did you do anything different on the mound to make those improvements?
Zach Jackson: I had one bad outing in April (3.2 IP, 10H, 9R)…well it wasn’t bad, it was the worst outing of my life, and that really served as a wakeup call for me. It was a blessing in disguise that I was settling for that, and just accepting everything that was happening up to that point. Once that one game took place, I just went out to the mound with a different mind set and a different attitude. I told myself I will leave everything out on the field. From now on I would do that each and every start, and try to better my previous start for the rest of my career.
ITD: You induced 14 ground balls last night, and had two ground ball outs in six of the eight innings. You had your fair share of strikeouts in the Florida State League, but was the game-plan last night to just put the ball into play and let your defense do the work?
Zach Jackson: I don’t consider myself a huge strikeout pitcher, but that Portland team is one of the best hitting teams in the league, if not the best. It definitely showed that they try to make contact with every pitch, and there wasn’t one easy out in the lineup. All I was trying to do was make them hit my pitch, or miss the barrel of the bat.
ITD: What improvements are you looking to make now that your in Double-A?
Zach Jackson: I just want to study the game a little more, study the hitters a little more, and get a feel for what these teams like to do since I will see them several times this season. Overall I just want to get smarter as a pitcher and grow mentally. Physically I am looking to control my two-seamer better, but my biggest focus is to be a student of the game.
ITD: You have not been around the system very long, but has there been a hitter that has really impressed you so far?
Zach Jackson: Adam Lind, our third round pick last year from South Alabama, he has been hitting the cover off the ball. He has the approach at the plate that is beyond his years, and the numbers speak for themselves. I have been around him the most out of anyone in the system, and am real impressed with how he handles himself at the plate.
InsideTheDome would like to thank Zach Jackson for taking the time to talk with us after his outstanding Double-A debut on Wednesday. We wish Zach the best of luck the rest of the season and look forward to talking with him again. Zach will be the feature of our Sunday Spotlight article this week for our premium subscribers.