Saturday, March 3, 2012

Jackson, Detwiler work out kinks

US Presswire photo
Edwin Jackson tossed two scoreless innings this afternoon.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Steve McCatty spent the first two weeks of spring training working with Edwin Jackson on mechanical changes to his windup, the Nationals pitching coach hoping to get his right-hander to correct flaws that may have led to him tipping pitches.

Now that the Grapefruit League has commenced and there are actual batters standing at the plate, McCatty doesn't want Jackson thinking about any of that stuff any more.

"We're not going to make a mechanical issue about anything," McCatty said following today's game against the Astros. "We're not talking about tipping. Nothing. I want him to feel nice and smooth. I want him to feel like everything's working together and not always worry about all the other garbage that goes on."

Easier said than done. Though Jackson enjoyed a few encouraging moments during his two innings of work, he admitted it was still a challenge feeling comfortable on the mound.

"It wasn't hard. It was just different," said the 28-year-old, who signed an $11 million contract on Feb. 1. "For the most part, it was just timing. It's just some timing adjustments that I had to work on."

Jackson's end results -- two scoreless innings -- looked strong, but the manner in which he got there was a bit ragged. He issued two walks, including one to the very first batter he faced, and threw only 12 of his 28 pitches for strikes. His saving grace was a pair of double-play grounders, both coming on fastballs down in the zone.

"It's always good to keep the ball on the ground," he said. "Of course, you don't want to have to walk people to get inning-ending double plays. But when you make pitches when you need to make pitches, and you get groundballs, it's always productive."

Because he was scheduled to throw as many as 45 pitches on the day, Jackson wound up in the right-field bullpen following his start, throwing another 15 to build up his stamina and address some of those timing issues.

"I didn't get every fastball where I wanted to, but I threw some pretty decent offpseed pitches," he said. "It went fairly well. It's the first spring training game. I'll get a chance to go back and assess it and work on some stuff on the side."

The man who replaced Jackson on the hill today, Ross Detwiler, also experienced some ups and downs during his two innings of work. The good: Detwiler cruised through the bottom of the third and ultimately recorded three strikeouts. The bad: He walked Astros DH Jack Cust after getting ahead in the count 0-2, then left a 1-0 changeup over the plate to Chris Johnson and watched the ball sail over the center-field fence.

Later in the summer, Detwiler might have been more upset about walking Cust than serving up the homer to Johnson. But on March 3, it was the home run pitch that still stuck in his craw.

"This is the second time I've seen hitters. That stuff will come," he said of the Cust at-bat. "If there's anything I'd go back on, a 1-0 changeup down the middle. I know it's spring training, but I still want to go out there and compete."

The other highlight of the Nationals' 3-1 loss to the Astros: Jesus Flores went 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles, further evidence of the progress the 27-year-old catcher has made since returning from major shoulder surgery.

"I've liked everything I've seen about him," manager Davey Johnson said. "Obviously [playing winter ball in Venezuela] helped him a great deal, because he's throwing a lot better, he looks more confident, more sure of himself, and you can definitely see he's swinging the bat. He looked in midseason form to me."


Cwj said...

Mark Z- How did Jackson's pitches "look"? Location aside, was his fastball fast and have movement, was his slider crisp, etc.
I'm very curious to actually see him pitch other than brief clips of past seasons.

Cwj said...

I think Detwiler profiles well as a reliever.
He wont have to face a full lineup more than once in a game, and has better stuff than Gorzelanny, I believe.

SonnyG10 said...

I'd like to see him make it as a starter, but he needs to make some progress to get there.

Scooter said...

Cwj, there's a real limit to what I could see, down near the field but off to the side. You can see up/down pretty well, but not inside/outside. But my dad and I both thought he looked kinda all over the place.

Take that for what it's worth, for this one practice game. He did look fastish, though.

DaveB said...

These guys are just building-up arm strength at this point, it's way too early to wonder how specific pitches looked, some pitchers barely throw anything other than fastballs during Spring Training to strengthen themselves, or they experiment with new pitches that may or may not work. Their last start in March, as opposed to their first, is when you'll see them trying to get locked-in for the start of the season.

Cwj said...

Thanks for the responses Sonny, Scooter and DaveB!

Anonymous said...

Durbin threw two scoreless innings.

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