LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the Braves acquired Luke Jackson from the Rangers in December, it was easy to look at his stats and assume he was simply another of those hard-throwing hurlers whose primary liability was finding the strike zone.But Jackson, 25, has caught the attention of many
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the Braves acquired Luke Jackson from the Rangers in December, it was easy to look at his stats and assume he was simply another of those hard-throwing hurlers whose primary liability was finding the strike zone.
But Jackson, 25, has caught the attention of many of Atlanta's coaches through the early portion of Spring Training, and he did nothing to hurt his stock as he produced a perfect ninth inning to conclude Saturday's 7-4 win over the Blue Jays in a mutual Grapefruit League season opener at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.
"He's a really interesting guy," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "You've got to like the arm."
While pitching in front of his grandparents as a professional player for the first time on Saturday, Jackson showed his ability to harness a fastball -- which touched 94 mph and possessed some sink -- and keep hitters off balance with a curveball that has seemingly improved, as he has committed himself to taking a looser approach to the mound this year. He induced two quick groundouts and ended the game with a strikeout.
"I just kind of went back to what I was doing in 2013," Jackson said. "I just want to have fun out there, keep everything composed and not try to do too much. It feels great. I feel so comfortable out there on the mound. I'm not out there on the mound trying to be somebody that I'm not. I feel like I did that the past couple years. So, I'm pretty excited about it."
Selected by the Rangers in the first round (45th overall) of the 2010 MLB Draft, Jackson strengthened his prospect status as he produced a 2.04 ERA over the 128 innings he completed while being utilized primarily as a starting pitcher for Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco in 2013. But as he moved forward, his command wavered as he allowed himself to be adversely affected by the pressure he felt to reach the big league level.
Jackson experienced short stints in Texas' bullpen both of the past two years, but the struggles he experienced at the big league level and while producing 6.2 walks per nine innings at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year led the Rangers to go a different direction. In December, the Rangers traded Jackson to the Braves in exchange for Tyrell Jenkins.
"I'm back to feeling comfortable," Jackson said. "I'm ready to bring it to Atlanta and show them what I've got."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.