A major league pitching coach's job is to help pitchers feel confident, remind them of their potential and help them reach it. So what does Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty tell Edwin Jackson the start after pitching a two-hit complete game?
"As long as you don't expect too much out of yourself and try to do more than you're capable of doing, that's when everything really seems to flow," McCatty said.
In other words, expect great things of yourself, but not too great. Right?
"Could he go out there and throw the exact same or better? Sure, but I don't think a guy that is a veteran guy, eight years in the big leagues, is going to go out there and worry about going nine innings and, you know, two hits or whatever. He's just going to go out and pitch," McCatty said.
For Jackson, going out and pitching is easier said than done. He was drafted by the Dodgers out of high school as an outfielder with a good arm. He only pitched a few innings randomly before the minor leagues, where the decision was made in 2002 to make him a pitcher. His manager was unclear about the decision.
"He never did say specifically what I was going to be, so I came into the next spring training not knowing if I needed bats and gloves, outfielder's gloves, or if I needed spikes with a pitching toe on them," Jackson said.
Later that season, just months after stepping onto a minor league mound for the first time, the 19-year-old was in the big leagues.
"It was a learn-on-the-fly type deal. My first year, September, when I got called up, I was pretty much just throwing off of athleticism. I had no real pitching skills. I think that somewhat contributed to some of the struggles in my career. I had to learn how to pitch pretty much at a major league level. All the time I was learning how to pitch I had a spotlight on me," Jackson said.
Jackson's story is pretty amazing. His raw talent is why he's thrown a no-hitter, pitched five complete games, played in two World Series and won one. He's known as an innings horse.
The fact that he didn't grow up as a pitcher explains why he's struggled at times to find consistency or stick with one club for a long period of time. At 28, he's still learning.
Programming note: Be sure to catch "The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" on MASN on Thursday from 5-7:30 p.m. for my full interview with Jackson. He's an Army brat with an affinity for playing the drums - in church. Can he help the Nationals reach the playoffs as he helped the Cardinals in 2011? We talk about it all in the interview.