Jackson Ready In The Bullpen

Jackson has a 2.38 ERA in his last 18 appearances

Acquired in the Randy Johnson trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a sinker-ball starting pitcher, Steven Jackson didn't have immediate success in the same role with the Yankees but now he's found a new home in the bullpen and he is starting to flourish there.

Steven Jackson began his season in Double-A Trenton as a starting pitcher. After making eleven starts between April 10th and June 4th, he was converted to a relief pitcher.

The majority of his time as a reliever has been spent in Triple-A Scranton. In that time, he's had the opportunity to work with Scranton Wilkes-Barre pitching coach Rafael Chavez.

Having the time to work with Jackson in Scranton, Chavez admitted he hadn't had a chance to see Jackson as a starter, but feels he's right at home in the bullpen.

"He's done a very good job," said Chavez. "He's gone up from Double-A to Triple-A. He's done a terrific job, and he's been getting better and better."

The change from starter to reliever wasn't easy at first for Jackson.

"At first it was a little difficult," Jackson admitted. "I was worrying too much. I feel better now. Now it's sort of the same thing for me, starting or relieving. I have to just go out and get outs."

Comfortable coming in from the pen, Jackson has seen success since the change to a reliever. In the bullpen, he sports an ERA of 3.43 and has struck out 44 batters in 42 innings. He has also picked up three wins and yet to experience a loss in that time.

In order to achieve this success, Jackson has followed the same routine he did as a starter. The only difference is he now takes part in it every single day.

"I do the same thing everyday. I try to get prepared to pitch everyday," Jackson said, "just doing stretches and being mentally prepared to pitch everyday. I just do it every day instead of every fifth day."

He's adjusted well to the bullpen environment since his arrival in Scranton.

"We have a good time in the bullpen," he said. "I feel like I'm a lot more in the game. When you're starting, you know you're not in the game four days. In the bullpen, I feel more involved in the game."

Maintaining consistency as a reliever was perhaps the biggest challenge that Jackson faced. So far, he's handled the challenge well.

"It's something you have to have, starter or reliever. As a reliever, since you do get to pitch more often, you can get into a rhythm and can get on a good roll."

Consistency has been just one part of his success. Another key element to his game in the bullpen has been an increase in velocity on his pitches.

"I don't know if there is anything to it. It could just be my arm is stronger now. I'm not trying to throw it harder, it just kind of happened," Jackson said when asked about his increase in velocity.

With an increase in velocity, Chavez said that his fastball is now in the low 90's. With a better fastball, Jackson has also found that his splitter has become his biggest out-pitch.

"My split's been really good. I've been able to get ahead with fastball and utilize my splitter," Jackson said.

Chavez agreed with Jackson's assessment.

"He's got one of the best splitters in the league. Now that he's pitching in the lower 90's, the fastball splitter combination complement each other very well," Chavez admitted.

Chavez added that he believes his mechanics have improved from earlier in the season.

Jackson doesn't know where the change puts him in the minds of the Yankees organization, but said he doesn't really think about it.

"I don't make that decision, so I don't know," said Jackson. "I just try and get people out to help the team win."

With a winning attitude, Jackson is ready for anything.

"I feel like I've been in every situation. I've been used as a long reliever, closer, middle reliever. That's why you're in the minor leagues, to pitch in all those situations," Jackson said when asked where he preferred in the bullpen. "I don't really have a preference really."

If the Yankees organization needs a reliever who's confident, Jackson could be ready for a call in the future. In the meantime, he's looking to help Scranton win some baseball games, no matter where they need him.

"I'm always ready to be called in to get the job done," Jackson concluded.

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