On Aug. 1, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded LHP Rich Hill and 1B Ji-Man Choi to the San Diego Padres for 1B Alfonso Rivas, LHP Jackson Wolf, and OF Estuar Suero.
Of the three names the Pirates received, Jackson Wolf is among the most intriguing. In the fourth round of the 2021 draft, the Padres drafted the left-hander out of West Virginia University.
Wolf, since 2022, has been in the Padres’ Double-A system. Over the past three seasons, Wolf posted an ERA of 4.17, with a record of 15-19 in 233 innings pitched.
The Ohio-native made his major league debut earlier this season on July 22 against the Detroit Tigers.
In that start against the Tigers, Wolf earned his first major league win with five innings pitched while giving up six hits, three earned runs, one walk, and one strikeout.
Looking at the advanced numbers from that start, Wolf’s four-seam averaged 90.8 mph. In addition, Wolf used a slider and a changeup.
Wolf’s slider averaged 2357 RPMs and induced his two swings and misses against the Tigers. Saturday evening, I confirmed that the Altoona Curve was sending Wolf to the mound Sunday afternoon.
Before his start, I was able to talk with the 6-foot-7 lefty on Saturday evening.
“It was a bittersweet feeling; I definitely had mixed emotions,” said Wolf on getting traded from the Padres. “You think about all of the people that made you feel so comfortable. There are so many aspects that go into it you don’t want to leave the comfort of a place that’s treated you so well, but then again, new opportunities, and potentially better ones. Once all of the smoke kind of cleared, and I was able to understand what it all meant, I felt a lot better about it.”
Leaving a familiar environment can be daunting for most people, but Wolf is transitioning well.
One of the reasons Wolf can take this transition in stride could be moving closer to home.
“Being from Columbus, and now it’s only a few hours away, is cool. My immediate family just moved down to Florida, near the Sarasota area. They’ll be right around the Complex in Pirates’ City, so that will be cool to be in that area.”
Wolf chuckled at one point when I referenced him as “an adopted Yinzer,” and he seems to accept that moniker.
When I walked around the Altoona Curve clubhouse, I spoke with a few coaches and even manager Callix Crabbe on what kind of player Wolf is.
I got a one-word response “COMPETITIVE”. After speaking with Wolf, I found it shocking to hear that word due to his calm demeanor and soft-spoken voice.
“It’s taken years to figure out how to flip that switch and turn on my competitive spirit,” said Wolf on his attitude on and off the mound. “I grew up with a younger brother who was really good at sports as well, and I never wanted to lose to him. I think it spans from that; I was born with it.”
Watching Wolf on the mound, he has a funky delivery, and the 24-year-old talked about where it came from.
“It started as something I was messing around with. I had a pretty good relationship with the pitching coordinator in San Diego. I was having an issue where I felt sticky or stuck throughout my motion, and I wanted to free things up and let my body move the way it needed to.”
“I had a bullpen one day, and I bounced the idea off of him of possibly moving in these weird ways like a Clevinger thing. But getting my body flowing in that motion. He liked the idea, and I threw a really good bullpen with it, and I resonated with being able to move into my actual delivery. We’re about a year and a half after that. I’ve found a good pre-pitch routine and stay in that flow and a good mindset.”
Although Wolf didn’t go a full five innings in his debut for the Pirates’ organization, he still provided a ton to look at and dive into. Curve manager, Callix Crabbe discussed Wolf’s start during the post game interview.
“The slider was good. I actually felt like early on there, he didn’t get as many pitches at the bottom of the zone that he probably should’ve gotten. Even with that reality, he did a nice job, not allowing it to effect him. There were a couple of times early in the game he got behind in the count. But he was able to get back in it with that slider, which was really nice. I love his tempo and movement on the mound. It’s quirky, but it seemed like he really enjoyed himself.”
Crabbe finished his comments on Wolf by saying he was impressed with him in all facets of the game. Wolf’s final line on Sunday was 4.2 innings pitched, two hits, two runs (one earned), one walk, and five strikeouts.