Newly Armed For Battle

Jackson would like to forget 2007




PHOENIX—No player wants to move backward in an organization's pecking order.

That's what happened to lefthander Zach Jackson in 2007, and he didn't like it much. He had taken a step forward the previous season with his first exposure to the big leagues, going 2-2, 5.40 in eight outings that helped stabilize an injury-riddled rotation.

Jackson, 24, found himself on the outside looking in last season, failing to get a return invitation to Milwaukee. He spent the entire season with Triple-A Nashville, struggling to an 11-10, 4.46 record while allowing an alarming 184 hits in 170 innings.

"Last year was a frustrating year," he said. "But, looking at the big picture, I learned a lot about my game and myself, and broadening my repertoire.

"When I got called up in '06, it was an amazing opportunity. It was more like battling and competing with all I had. All I really had was a fastball and cutter. And I didn't have great command of those."

If he ever wanted to don a Brewers uniform again, Jackson was told he needed to come up with a reliable offspeed pitch to keep hitters off his hard stuff. He took that direction to heart and has worked hard on a "split changeup" that, as described, works a bit like a splitter and a bit like a changeup.

"I have them beating the ball into the ground; that works for me," he said. "I'm not a strikeout pitcher. I'm a contact guy. I try to miss as many barrels as I can."

In his first two spring outings, Jackson pitched five innings without allowing an earned run, and appeared to be a more confident pitcher.

"Instead of worrying about mechanical stuff, I'm just going out there and getting outs," said Jackson, a supplemental first-round pick of the Blue Jays out of Texas A&M in 2004 who came over in the Lyle Overbay trade a year later.

"It's more fun because you have all these weapons in your arsenal. I have something different to show the hitters."

MICROBREWS

• Righthander Scott Cassidy, invited to major league camp as a non-roster player, announced his retirement the day after allowing four runs to the Rockies in less than an inning.

• Catcher Lou Palmisano will miss three to four months after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.