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Deceptive Jackson Wolf Settling in, Hoping to Turn Heads at Pirates’ Spring Training

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Jackson Wolf, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pirates prospects

BRADENTON, Fla. — If you ever watched Jackson Wolf on the mound, you would know he pitches in a way most people wouldn’t expect. That’s not to say he hasn’t been effective.

Wolf is tall and thin. He measures in at 6-foot-7 and weighs 205 pounds. Despite his frame, Wolf doesn’t rely on his velocity to help him get outs.

Instead, the 24-year-old has an unorthodox throwing motion that makes things difficult on hitters. To make things worse on anyone standing in the batter’s box, Wolf’s long arm makes it seem like he’s right on top of anyone with a bat in his hands. To a lesser extent, think Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. 

“I definitely rely on deception. It’s what makes me, me. It’s definitely part of my identity as a pitcher,” Wolf said. “It’s something I don’t really have to think about going out there anymore because it just happens naturally with that being my natural arm slot. I can focus on what I need to do to the baseball while relying on that being something that the hitter has to worry about.”

Watching a Jackson Wolf bullpen session at Pirate City in spring training is a sight to behold. The lanky left-hander goes through all kinds of unconventional motions in his wind-up and his delivery.

For Wolf, there’s a method to his madness. Everything he does in a bullpen has its purpose.

”It originated in spring training ‘22,” Wolf explained. “I was just working with my pitching coordinator about figuring out how to give myself more fluidity throughout my movement. We were playing around with some things and just got funky during some random bullpen and it really started to work so I stuck with it. It’s done me well since.”

Wolf fits the profile of what general manager Ben Cherington likes. He’s a soft-tossing left-hander who is crafty and will benefit from pitching at PNC Park.

Since taking over as the team’s GM, Cherington has made a number of acquisitions who have similar attributes – Tyler Anderson, José Quintana, Rich Hill, Martín Pérez, Marco Gonzales and Bailey Falter. 

It’s why the Pittsburgh Pirates identified Wolf during last year’s trade deadline, landing him from the San Diego Padres along with two others in exchange for Hill and first baseman Ji Man Choi. It was a deal that Wolf didn’t see coming. 

”I was definitely surprised. It was a pretty hectic week for me. Obviously, the trade deadline being that week, everyone knows what could potentially be coming. But I was definitely surprised. Not sure what was to come. I had a few friends over here in this organization that reached out pretty much immediately saying they were excited to have me. It made the transition easy. After being here for multiple months, I can definitely say I’m happy about my current situation, but it was a lot at the time.”

After coming over from the trade, Wolf made eight starts with Double-A Altoona. He finished with a 4.25 ERA, struck out 30 batters, walked 10 and yielded 32 hits in 36 innings pitched. 

Since the initial shock of the trade has worn off, Wolf is happy with where he is.

”It’s been great. It’s been pretty smooth,” he said. “Everybody treated me well since day one and made the transition easy for me. It’s been good. There’s a bunch of good guys around the clubhouse.”

This is Wolf’s first spring training with the Pirates and there are a few things he’s working on and wants to accomplish.

He already has one big-league start under his belt. He made his debut last season with the Padres about a week before he was dealt to Pittsburgh. If Wolf has it his way, he’ll soon be adding to the back of his baseball card.

”I wanna open some eyes and turn some heads,” said Wolf. “Anytime you can separate yourself from some guys this young and this talented is a good thing. What I’m working on is upping the velo, trying to produce as much force as I can down the mound.”

Even with one major-league start under his belt, Wolf hasn’t pitched an inning in Triple-A. Because of that, manager Derek Shelton says Jackson Wolf is “probably a little bit on the outside looking in,” in terms of cracking the club’s opening day roster. But with a good spring carried over into the start of the regular season, Wolf could accelerate his path to returning to the majors. This time for a lengthier stay. 

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