Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Jackson

Eugene, OR: The last guy from South Alabama to tear through the Northwest League as a member of the San Diego Padres sytem was third baseman David Freese. Matt Jackson has seen Freese-like success from the pitching side.

A South Alabama kid comes to the Northwest League and sees immediate success. What has been the secret?

Matt Jackson: It is not much different than college. A wood bat league, I am pounding the ball inside and getting in on their hands. Guys are struggling with wood bats at times.

I banged the curveball when I first got up here but have been able to get ahead of guys and attack the strike zone. Those are the ingredients of success so it is what we have been doing.

When you are in the bullpen, is there something specific you are working on?

Matt Jackson: We banged the curveball when I first got here but started to bring it back in. I feel like I have all four pitches working and need to continue to work at them.

It looks like you are beginning to setup pitch sequencing in the bullpen as well.

Matt Jackson: Cooch (pitching coordinator Mike Couchee) wanted me to work on setting up a curveball with a fastball high so we did work on that as well.

The last guy to come from South Alabama was David Freese who made it to the majors in St. Louis.

Matt Jackson: That is obviously everyone's dream so we will see what happens.

Talk about your pitches. You have four – how is everything setup?

Matt Jackson: Everything is setup by the fastball. I throw a four- and two-seam. When I first got up here I was 85-88 and in my last outing the arm strength came back and I was 89-92. The velocity has come back up. They have brought me back with pitch counts to give me my strength back.

I feel good right now. I feel like I have even more velocity to come as the pitch count goes up and my strength comes back.

You mentioned getting rid of the curveball when you first got to Eugene. What was the purpose?

Matt Jackson: This year was the first year I started throwing the slider with the curveball. I had always had the curveball but it was the first full season with both of them. I had trouble making adjustments with both of them so we banged the curveball for a while and tossed just the slider.

Now, we are working the curveball back in. In the bullpen, both have looked really good. I have made adjustments on both of them.

One of the big pitches that Padres stress is the changeup. How has that pitch evolved for you?

Matt Jackson: I am very confident in that pitch. They want us to throw it 20 percent of the time and I am. I am confident with it and throwing it for strikes nearly 66 percent of the time.

You mentioned throwing inside. It is almost a lost arm for the college pitcher. How big is it in a wood bat league.

Matt Jackson: It is big. If you just go away – that is exactly what the hitter wants. He wants to get his hands extended. Come in and break bats, especially while they are still adjusting to the wood bats. You have to throw to both sides of the plate. That is the name of the game.

What has it been like working under manager Greg Riddoch who

is a advocate of the mental side of the game?

Matt Jackson: I love working under him. He is a guy that has already taught us many things on the mental side of the game. He is a guy I look up to a lot. I try and listen to everything he says and be a sponge to soak it all up.

You have a little bit of a strange leg kick. How did it come about and does it offer a little bit of deception as well?

Matt Jackson: It was an adjustment I made when I got to my junior college. When I was at LSU, I was throwing across my body and landing on my heel. To get my stride back online with the plate, we got my leg back underneath me so I stride straight.

I have talked to some hitters and they say they don't see the ball until the last second so I guess it helps me stay behind the ball more. It is hard for them to pick up.

What do you need to do to improve and take the next step?

Matt Jackson: I need to get more innings in and go deeper into games to show them I can go the distance. I have to command the zone and keep doing what I have been doing. I have been successful so we will see how it goes.

I have let the counts get deep in some innings. I try not to think about pitch counts and focus on throwing strikes. I don't want to get my mind stuck on something I can't control.

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