SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – After missing the first half of this season with lumbar spine inflammation, Jackson Jobe dominated at four levels and spun six scoreless frames in his lone Double-A start. Looking to add more innings after working just 64 in his second full year as a pro, the Tigers right-hander headed to the Arizona Fall League and continued to impress on Opening Day.
The third overall pick in the 2021 Draft, Jobe shut out the Glendale Desert Dogs during the first four innings of a 3-1 victory for the Salt River Rafters. Baseball's No. 54 overall prospect gave up two hits and two walks while striking out four and tossing 31 of 55 pitches for strikes.
“I felt good, obviously super happy to be here,” Jobe said. “My command was kind of iffy but I put up zeros, so I feel like I did my job. But I definitely can be better.”
Jobe got three swings-and-misses each with his four-seam fastball, which sat at 96-97 mph, and his 83-85 mph slider, which is considered his best pitch. He fought his control at times with both offerings and had more success landing his 89-92 mph cutter and 85-86 mph changeup for strikes. Two of his four whiffs came on his changeup, which features both fade and sink.
“Toward the end of the year this year, I’ve kind of been incorporating the changeup a little more, especially throwing it to righties,” Jobe said. “I was able to get a couple of strikeouts with it tonight, so that’s a pitch I’m definitely getting more comfortable and getting a lot more confidence with.
“The cutter wasn’t something I had last year and I’ve been using it this year. It’s been really effective. It’s something a little shorter than slider, a little easier to land. I’m kind of able to mix something up, maybe behind in the count I can throw them off a little bit, something that just moves a couple inches. It’s been a great pitch for me.”
When Jobe tweaked his back during a bullpen workout early in Spring Training, he didn’t realize it would delay his 2023 debut until mid-June. Detroit's No. 3 prospect excelled when he returned, rising from Rookie ball to Double-A while posting a 2.81 ERA with 84 strikeouts vs. just six walks in 64 innings. No Minor League pitcher who worked at least as many frames could match his walk rate (0.8 per nine innings) or K/BB ratio (14.0).
Besides using the Fall League to make up for lost time, Jobe also is working on adjusting his position on the pitching rubber. He usually sets up on the first-base side and the Tigers want him to shift closer to third.
“Tonight I moved a little bit more towards the middle,” he said. “I think as these starts go on, I’ll keep inching more towards third base to get a little bit more deception on my stuff and help my fastball play a little better. It didn’t feel crazy uncomfortable, but it definitely felt a little different.”
Second baseman Sterlin Thompson (Rockies) scored the game’s first two runs after leading off the third inning with a double and the seventh with a walk. First baseman Caleb Roberts (D-backs) and right fielder Jase Bowen (Pirates) each collected two hits for the Rafters, while left fielder Justice Bigbie (Tigers) drew three walks. Four pitchers followed Jobe to complete a four-hitter for Salt River, with Juan Mejia (Rockies) striking out four of the five batters he faced.