IL notes: Jackson balancing priorities

Braves backstop learning from, trying to improve Stripers staff

Alex Jackson, who spent 10 days in the Majors, is averaging a homer every 8.7 at-bats in the IL. (Will Fagan/Gwinnett Stripers)

By John Wagner / Special to | May 13, 2019 10:00 AM

This season, the Gwinnett pitching staff has featured a number of the Braves' top prospects, not to mention rehabbing Major League starter Mike Foltynewicz.

And one player who has benefited from working with those prospects is Stripers catcher Alex Jackson.

"I think I've learned as much from our pitchers as I have from our other catchers and our coaching staff," said Jackson, the Braves' No. 27 prospect.

The 23-year-old said the biggest lesson he has gleaned from working with prospects like Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, Kolby Allard and Thomas Burrows -- all of whom are currently on the Gwinnett roster -- is understanding what those pitchers want to accomplish on the mound.

"I try to do everything in my power to put pitchers in situations where they can succeed," Jackson said. "I try to give them a chance to let their talent take over. If we can do that, their ability to have success will shine."

Gwinnett pitching coach Mike Maroth said one advantage Jackson has in that collaboration is his experience in the organization.

"Alex knows a lot of those guys because he caught a lot of them last year," Maroth said. "But you also have to remember that, while these young pitchers are out there learning and trying to get better, he's a young catcher who's out there learning and trying to get better, too."

That's the balancing act for Jackson: finding a chance to let his talent shine while he works to improve the young Stripers staff. Selected sixth overall in the 2014 Draft, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound backstop is considered a potential power bat, having hammered six homers in 14 games with Gwinnett this season.

"I try to control my work time and focus on what I'm working on at a particular time," he said. "But when the game comes, I worry about my pitching staff more than anything else. I try to stay in command of the game and help them do what they're trying to do. I think if you work that way, pitchers will trust that you're working to help them succeed."

Jackson got a taste of "success" earlier this season when he earned a promotion to Atlanta. While the California native played in only three games totaling 10 at-bats with the Braves, he said the promotion was a learning opportunity as well as a dream come true.

2019 MiLB include

"No matter how many times I've been asked, I can't describe it," Jackson said of his first Major League stint. "I got a chance to play, but I also got a chance to learn -- and I learned from the pitchers up there as much as I did from the coaches and the staff. It was an experience I'll never forget.

"But now I'm working with the staff here in Gwinnett and I'm focused on having success here."

Maroth said that focus will help Jackson continue to improve.

"The more time Alex gets behind the plate, the more experience he gets, will help him," the former big league left-hander said. "Every day he catches, he gets a little better."

In brief

The "Blues Brother:" Indianapolis 2B Jake Elmore has given IL pitchers the blues as he leads the league with a .380 batting average. Elmore, who is playing for his fifth team on the circuit and his 10th at the Triple-A level, has collected multiple hits in 15 of the 31 games in which he's played, including four three-hit contests. Among his 41 hits are a pair of homers and 12 doubles.

No passage: Pawtucket RHP Mike Shawaryn leads the IL with a 1.07 WHIP, having allowed 33 hits and 12 walks over 42 innings. In his last two starts, the 24-year-old gave up eight hits and a walk in 13 2/3 frames. For the season Shawaryn is 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA in seven starts.

Another big day for Castro: Toledo SS Willi Castro went 4-for-5 with six RBIs in the Mud Hens' win at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 10, but that was not the first offensive explosion this season for the 22-year-old. It marked his second four-hit game of the year and the fourth time he had at least four RBIs, including back-to-back four-RBI games at Charlotte on April 24-25. Castro is batting .322 in 29 games.

John Wagner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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