Andre Jackson, like so many others, grew up dreaming of playing in the major leagues.
Jackson dreamed of hitting home runs and stealing bases. He also dreamed about chasing down fly balls in the outfield and making spectacular catches.
Then Jackson achieved his childhood dream in 2021 when got to the big leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, Jackson’s dream has turned out a little differently than he planned. He wound up getting the majors as a pitcher.
And now the 27-year-old rookie right-hander is becoming an increasingly important member of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ staff.
Growing up in Vail, Ariz., a suburb of Tucson, Jackson’s favorite position was outfield. However, only one Division I program was willing to offer him a scholarship and the University of Utah wanted the strong-armed Jackson as a pitcher.
So, Jackson became a full-time pitcher once he got to college. He is becoming increasingly better at the art of pitching as he continues to gain professional experience.
Jackson has pitched six times for the Pirates since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on Aug. 4, making three starts and three relief appearances. While he might not be a full-fledged member of the rotation, Jackson is now getting regular work and staying on turn as either a starter or bulk-inning reliever that follows a closer.
Jackson had his best outing yet last Wednesday when he beat the Royals in Kansas City for his first career win. He pitched 5.2 innings and allowed only one run and two hits while striking out seven and walking two.
Overall, Jackson has a 2.92 ERA over 24.2 innings with 27 strikeouts.
“It’s been great. I love it,” Jackson said of his stint with the Pirates. “I have the opportunity to go out there every five days now, try to get in a routine and locking with the catchers, J.D. (Jason Delay) and Endy (Rodriguez).
“I’m just going out there and showing I can go through a lineup two or three times, seeing how many outs I can get. That’s really been my only focus. I’ve really been trying to keep it rather simple. That’s my main goal. Everything feels good right now, so it’s just how many outs can I get.”
The Pirates purchased Jackson’s contract from the Dodgers on June 25 after Los Angeles had designated him for assignment. Jackson was optioned to Indianapolis, where he had no record and a 3.38 ERA in five games (three starts).
Jackson had spent his entire professional career with the Dodgers since being selected in the 12th round of the 2017 amateur draft. While spending parts of the last three seasons in the majors, Jackson had a 4.15 ERA in 14 relief appearances, including pitching four shutout innings against the Pirates on Aug. 16, 2021 in his debut at Dodger Stadium.
Jackson admits he was caught off guard when he learned he was leaving the Dodgers.
“For sure, it was a surprise. I was there for six years,” he said. “But I also knew I was coming into an opportunity where a team traded for me, so they obviously wanted to see what I had, so I was excited to get the opportunity to pitch.”
The Pirates made some tweaks to Jackson’s pitch selection and mechanics. However, Jackson said his key to success has been keeping and even keel and that has been helped by now pitching on a regular schedule.
“My preference is starting but I’ve done everything this year,” Jackson said. “I’m willing to take the ball in any situation and it won’t affect me. I’ve tried to say super consistent mentally because that’s the one thing you can carry anywhere you go.”
The kind of mindset that is making Jackson look like he could be part of the rebuilding Pirates’ future.