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Saturday, April 26, 2014
Luke Jackson impressing scouts, coaches

By Richard Durrett

Texas Rangers pitching prospect Luke Jackson is enjoying his share of success recently. He was named Texas League pitcher of the week last week and followed that up with 5 2/3 innings of perfect baseball Monday. The 22-year-old allowed three hits and struck out eight in seven shutout innings against Double-A San Antonio.

“I’ve got to command the fastball and cut down on my walks,” Jackson said. “The coaches talked to me about that this offseason and they wanted me throwing my offspeed stuff for strikes.”

So far, so good. Jackson has walked five batters in his first four starts. He had 59 walks in 128 innings last season.

Jackson said he felt he took a step forward last season, when he was asked to do something he didn’t want to do.

“Steve Mintz, my pitching coach last year [at Class A Myrtle Beach] forced me to throw a changeup the first five starts,” Jackson said. “I was mad I had to do it. But in the long run, it was the best thing. It gave me confidence to throw that pitch. It’s keeping people off my fastball.”

Now, Frisco pitching coach Jeff Andrews is having Jackson understand how to incorporate the pitch, along with his curveball, to give hitters different looks in various counts and situations.

“If you learn the changeup, you get a feel,” Andrews said. “He’s learned a comfortable grip and how to take velocity off it. Last year, he was actually pitching to it. At the time, it was fine because it was a pitch he was learning. But now, it’s a mix. You’ve got to put pressure on your fastball, make the curve productive and add the changeup. He’s a power pitching guy who’s adding secondary stuff as he goes. That’s the way to think about it.”

Jackson was the No. 12 prospect in the Rangers’ system, according to ESPN.com’s Keith Law, and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s certainly impressed the Rangers, as he’s getting Double-A hitters out and building off his solid Class A numbers in 2013.

What’s pleased Andrews is Jackson’s mental side. He thinks through games well and is willing to put the work in to improve.

“You get in the development part and your emphasis is on getting better and putting that into games,” Andrews said. “The flip side is you’ve got to compete and try to get hitters out and perform well. He’s been able to put one aside when he’s pitching in a game and bring that back out when he’s practicing on side days and flat ground days.

“Lots of young pitchers can paralyze themselves mentally in games because of that, but he’s able to separate,” Andrews said.

Jackson is scheduled to pitch tonight in Corpus Christi.