VIERA, Fla. -- Upon signing Edwin Jackson earlier this month, general manager Mike Rizzo mentioned that the Nationals might try to tweak the right-hander's delivery from the full windup after noticing he posted significantly better numbers out of the stretch last season.
It didn't take long for members of the coaching staff to pick up on one possible problem this morning during Jackson's first bullpen session of the spring.
Watching Jackson throw from the windup, pitching coach Steve McCatty detected the 28-year-old dropping the ball for a split second from his glove and potentially showing it to the batter before reaching back to throw it. McCatty asked Davey Johnson to take a look, and after watching himself, the manager asked catcher Wilson Ramos for his vantage point behind the plate.
"I did notice it from the windup that he did show more ball," Johnson said. "It wasn't real obvious. Actually, I went down and asked Willy Ramos: 'Can you see the seams?' Because I didn't have my telescope glasses on. I could see the fingers, but I couldn't see the seams. But Ramos said: Yeah, he could pick up the seams in the windup."
Jackson manages to hide the ball better when he's pitching from the stretch, which may explain in part the unusual difference in his stats when comparing the two motions. When Jackson pitched with nobody on base last season (ie. from the windup) opponents hit a whopping .339 with a .478 slugging percentage. When he pitched with runners on base (ie. out of the stretch) those numbers plummeted to .239 and .373.
Is it possible the disparity was due entirely to Jackson tipping his pitches?
"Hitters, we try to pick up pitches," said Johnson, a former second baseman. "This is a new variation. I haven't heard that one or seen that one. ...
"Now, he wasn't throwing breaking balls, so I don't know if there's any variation when he changes the grip. But all of that stuff is just part of us getting to know him."
The Nationals believe it should be a fairly simple thing to fix and plan to work with Jackson (who signed a one-year, 11 million contract) this spring on correcting the problem.