A key component of the offseason trade that sent Lyle Overbay to Toronto, Zach Jackson is one of the most promising young pitchers in the Milwaukee farm system. He was selected by the Blue Jays as the 32nd overall pick in the 2004 amateur entry draft, and rocketed through three levels of the Toronto system last year.
Jackson is now in the starting rotation of the Nashville Sounds and has been pitching well all year, despite not recording his first win until his seventh start, on May 15th. Before Thursday's game against the Tacoma Rainiers, Zach spent a few minutes answering questions about his approach on the mound, his experience so far at the plate, and the coaching staff in his new organization.
Thanks to Joe Hamrahi of Baseball Digest Daily and Doug Scopel of the Nashville Sounds for arranging this interview.
Brew Crew Ball: You just got back from Las Vegas, how was it?
Zach Jackson: Yeah, it was a good time. Actually it was my birthday on Saturday and I threw that night too so it worked out too.
BCB: And you had a great outing, right?
ZJ: Yeah, finally got my first win under my belt so I was excited.
BCB: Congratulations. One thing I'm curious about, since you're new to the National League, how have things gone for you at the plate?
ZJ: It's going good, I'm excited. I love it. Still trying to get that first knock under my belt. But I feel comfortable up there and I put the ball in play. You know, just give a chance for our hitters to knock some guys around behind me.
BCB: Did you get to hit much in college?
ZJ: My freshman year I got to hit in a summer league and I did that fall of my freshman year. In high school, I swung a lot and took some pride in that, but, you know, gotta get back into the groove of things, that's all.
BCB: I'd imagine you also work a lot on bunting.
ZJ: Yeah, absolutely. The Brewers, especially at Spring Training, just having the opportunity to be at big league camp, Ned Yost stressed how important it was to get offensive production out of his pitchers and get a lot more. Whether it's working on bunting in the cages or taking extra BP, just trying to do our best to contribute and get those extra couple wins.
BCB: It's great that you get a little experience at the plate so you aren't just thrown into it when you hit the big leagues.
ZJ: It's fun, it is. Everybody wants to get some at bats and they want to swing it more than anything but when it comes down to it you got guys in scoring position, or guys you gotta move over with less than two you gotta get it done too.
BCB: Is there a rivalry between the pitchers at all?
ZJ: (laughs) Me and Dennis Sarfate, my roommate, we got a little thing going, see who's going to get the first home run and who's going to hit for the best average. He's killing it right now.
BCB: Has he gotten a hit yet?
ZJ: Yeah, actually, he's four for nine.
BCB: Whoa! What's he doing pitching?
ZJ: He's swinging it pretty well. (laughs) He's getting some good breaks, he'll yell at me for saying that, but he is.
BCB: How about Dana Eveland? How was he doing at the plate?
ZJ: He was doing well. He had a knock. From what I recall he didn't pitch in too many of the games that were against NL teams, but you know, he's the same way. He's comfortable in there. We all had a little rivalry going. It was fun.
BCB: Can you tell me a little about your repertoire and your approach on the mound?
ZJ: I don't see myself as much of a power guy. [I throw] a four-seamer, a two-seam sinker, changeup, I got a slurve, and a cutter. I just try to be aggressive and I don't see myself as too big of a strikeout guy but just go up there and miss their bat head, just rely on my defense. Try to get ahead early and go deep into ballgames, that's my job.
BCB: How is the approach different in the Milwaukee organization than it was with Toronto?
ZJ: I was lucky enough to have real good coaches with Toronto at each level. Here in Milwaukee the coaches are so much more relaxed. They're for their players, they're part of the team, they're like teammates to you, with all their experience under their belt too, so, whenever something comes out of their mouth you better be listening. They're just real laid back and I think that's a great atmosphere to play in.
BCB: If a situation came up where you were called up to Milwaukee but would be pitching out the bullpen, would you be comfortable with that?
ZJ: Yeah. Any way that I could contribute to the major league team, and I know that I could, I'd be all for it. The ideal situation would be to be a starter in the big leagues, and that's my goal, but in most scenarios you gotta somehow some way get up there, and usually it's through the bullpen. Any situation I could get guys out, whether it's starting or relieving, I'm all for it.
BCB: Have a good start tomorrow night, and thanks for taking the time!