Improved Control Sparks Luke Jackson's Strong Start For Rangers

ARLINGTON—Luke Jackson was a baseball novice when the Rangers drafted him in 2010, with only 90 or so innings of wear and tear on his right shoulder.

They were good innings, good enough to be selected with the 45th overall pick, but Jackson never devoted enough time to the art of pitching while also playing football and soccer.

Jackson now admits that he was just throwing when on the mound instead of pitching. Two years as a professional has helped him learn his craft, though he believes that he still hasn't dipped into the deep end of the knowledge pool.

"I'm not afraid to say that," Jackson said. "Coming into this year I felt like, 'What was I doing last year?' I'm still very new at pitching. You're going to keep learning until the day you die. Coming out here and learning every day is helping so much."

Jackson, 20, is a power pitcher who opened the season 2-0 for low Class A Hickory, thanks in part to better control. He had walked seven in his first 21 innings, covering four starts, and had held opponents to a .162 average.

He joined the Crawdads two months into their 2011 season and made 19 starts but finished with a 5.76 ERA and 48 walks in 78 innings. Pitching coach Storm Davis has had Jackson since, and he's been stressing the importance of pounding the strike zone.

"You have to make them hit the ball off you and make them put the ball in play," said Jackson, who throws a four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup. "They harp on that more than anything, especially for a guy who's not a crafty or finesse guy. I've got to go out there and throw as many strikes as I can."

The Rangers liked the fact that Jackson hadn't piled up many pitches at his Fort Lauderdale high school, and they also saw a 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete who actually preferred soccer to baseball.

Jackson has absorbed the physical aspect of pro ball and learned that sticking to a routine is pivotal for a starting pitcher.

Rangers Roundup

• The Rangers outrighted righthander Justin Miller from the 40-man roster on April 23 after he had Tommy John surgery, then re-signed him to a minor league deal on April 27.

• Outfielder Joey Butler, who made a favorable impression late in spring training as an extra player in Cactus League games, hit three homers and five doubles during a 15-game hitting streak in April for Triple A Round Rock.