Edwin Jackson could laugh about the low point of his start today, because it contained so many high points. In his penultimate spring outing, a 6-3 win, Jackson allowed the Braves one run in six innings on two hits and one walk, throwing about 70 pitches. He started his day by wiggling out of a two-on, two-out jam, and he ended by retiring 16 of 17 batters.
The one batter he did not retire in that span? That was Jason Heyward, and he hit the ball a very, very long way. Jackson threw him an inside fastball. Heyward demolished the pitch over the 35-foot batter’s eye in straightaway center field, 410 feet away. Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez has been coming to Space Coast Stadium for 10 years and never seen a ball hit over that big, green wall.
“I think he just missed it, though,” Jackson said. “I don’t think he got all of it. Nah, it was a fastball in, and he hit it pretty good. If you’re going to give ’em up, that’s the way to give ’em up.”
The Braves didn’t touch Jackson otherwise. He rebounded from his horrendous start against the Orioles on Saturday, when he allowed 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings. Jackson treated this start like a regular season outing, and his next time out he’ll back off a bit in his pitch count.
Jackson has had an unusual spring. He arrived to his seventh new team trying to alter his mechanics from the wind-up at the urging of Nationals coaches. He took a beating in a couple starts, but cruised through others. After today, he found comfort with the season bearing down.
“Yeah, whatever allows me to be able to throw strikes and make them put the ball in play,” Jackson said. “I’m definitely comfortable with it, but the last three times, I haven’t really been thinking about it, about mechanics. Just go out and let whatever happens naturally happen.”
●Brett Carroll already had his place on the team pretty well sealed up, and today he provided an exclamation point. With the bases loaded, Carroll smashed a triple off the right-center field wall. When shortstop Jack Wilson made a wild throw home, Carroll scampered home himself.
“Guys in the dugout were laughing, saying that was like a Little League home run,” Carroll said. “My first job is to hit a sac fly, get something in the air to get the runner in. I got something good to hit and I was able to drive it in the outfield. I just kept running until I didn’t stop.”
Afterward, Manager Davey Johnson virtually ensured Carroll of a roster spot, saying, “It’s no secret I like the way Carroll fits.” Even after his big day, which also included two walks, Carroll still wouldn’t relax.
“Not one bit,” Carroll said. “I’ve been down this road before. Obviously, my hope is to break the camp because I’d like to contribute. But until I’m on that plane going north, I’ll just continue taking it one day at a time.”
●Reliever Sean Burnett made his first appearance since March 18, having taken time away to settle down back spasms. Burnett yielded one earned run on two hits and a walk.
“Little rusty,” Johnson said. “He was kind of jerking the ball. He was overthrowing, but he settled down and threw the ball good.”
Burnett has dealt with back spasms on several occasions in the past and, because he knows how to manage them, does not think they will interfere with his season.
●The Nationals will be without Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel again tomorrow night. Bernadina will be returning home from Curacao, where he is attending the funeral of his father. Ankiel is still nursing a tight left quadriceps back to health.
Johnson expressed confidence the ailment would not prevent Ankiel from starting the season at full strength. In just nine games, Ankiel has gone 4 for 15 with three walks and a homer.
“Even though Ankiel hasn’t had as many at-bats as I’d like for him to have, I like what I’m seeing,” Johnson said. “He’s better right now than he was at any time last year in his approach. I want him to be able to run things down. I want his wheels getting right.”