SARASOTA, Fla. - Even after getting hit around to the tune of 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings in this afternoon's 12-3 loss to the Orioles, Edwin Jackson still had a positive attitude and a bit of a smile on his face in the Nationals clubhouse.
Jackson insists that today's outing, as well as his other spring struggles, don't bother him. The key, he says, is that he threw strikes - 53 of them among his 75 pitches - and forced the O's hitters to put the ball in play.
"Games like this don't affect my confidence," Jackson said. "When we get ready to play (regular season games), I have just as much confidence in myself that I'll be ready."
It's a good thing, because Jackson's stats haven't exactly been stellar lately. He allowed four runs (two earned) in 3 1/3 innings back on March 13 against the Tigers, and then gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks in four frames against Detroit on March 18.
Today, Jackson allowed just one run through his first 2 2/3 innings, but then let in four runs in the fourth and five more in the fifth.
The major blow in the fourth came when Matt Wieters hit a three-run homer to left, but the runners that came across on Wieters' longball - Wilson Betemit and Adam Jones - both reached on seeing-eye ground ball hits. The fourth inning, however, was another story, as Jackson allowed seven straight batters to reach base on an error, four singles and two walks, one of which came with the bases loaded and plated a run.
"Initially, I started off doing what I wanted to do - making them put the ball in play," Jackson said. "The last inning, some balls I left up they hit pretty good. Aside from the two walks, everything else went according to planned. Go out and be aggressive and make them put the ball in play."
Jackson did throw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 23 batters he faced, which is a positive sign.
The righty made reference of the fact that he never has good spring trainings, and the numbers back that statement up.
Jackson had a 5.32 ERA in spring in 2010, a 5.59 ERA last spring, and he's put up a 6.88 ERA through five 2012 Grapefruit League starts.
The key will be if Jackson can flip the switch in the regular season and deliver the kind of quality innings the Nats expected when they gave the 28-year-old a one-year, $11 million contract this offseason.
"When we start playing, I'll be ready to go, for sure," Jackson said. "Of course, it's always good to go out and be lights out in spring training, but sometimes it doesn't happen like that. You go out and you continue to feel better and you make your pitches as you come along. Only thing I don't like is if I have games where I'm walking (guys). Other than that, I can handle being hit around.
"That's the objective - go out and make them put the ball in play."