Luke Jackson was expected to compete for a spot in the Rangers bullpen out of spring training, but some recurring back problems held him out for the bulk of the spring slate, leaving the Rangers brass no choice but to send him back to the minors. He performed well during his time at Triple-A Round Rock, piecing together a 2.45 ERA and 11.1 K/9 in 22 innings out of the bullpen. This helped him garner a couple of brief cups of coffee in Arlington, although he pitched horrifically against major league hitters. In 11.2 innings, the electric 25-year-old was shelled for 14 runs on 22 hits (four home runs) while compiling a dreary 3:8 K:BB, leading to a demotion all the way to Double-A Frisco. Jackson has a lot of life on his mid-90s fastball, but his below-average command and control have limited his ability to compete for a high-leverage role thus far. The Braves saw an opportunity to swap declining assets with Texas this offseason, acquiring Jackson in a deal that sent another failed prospect, Tyrell Jenkins, to the Rangers. The trade should offer Jackson a better chance to break camp in the majors, given the Braves' lack of quality bullpen depth.
Jackson was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Jackson was auditioning for one of the last available spots in the Braves bullpen, but after he was outperformed by Blaine Boyer and Chaz Roe in recent spring games, Atlanta decided to send him back to the minors for further seasoning. If Jackson shows he can harness better control of his pitches at Triple-A, he may be one of the top options for a call-up should a need arise in the bullpen.
The Rangers traded Jackson to the Braves on Thursday in exchange for Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Jackson, the 45th overall pick in 2010, transitioned to a full-time relief role in 2016. He was able to post a 3.69 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A despite issuing 32 free passes in just 46.1 innings, which speaks to his stuff -- he can dial up his fastball in the upper 90s with consistency. However, Jackson wasn't able to overpower major league hitters the same way, giving up 22 hits (including four homers) in 11.2 innings with Texas. He will try to earn a spot in the Atlanta bullpen in spring training.
Jackson was optioned to Double-A Frisco on Sunday. Jackson had a horrendous outing in Saturday's loss to the Twins, giving up six runs on five hits and two walks over 1.2 innings to inflate his season ERA to 10.80. Until he shows an ability to generate less hard contact in the minors, don't expect him to be in line for another promotion to the big leagues.
Jackson was recalled by the Rangers on Wednesday. With Derek Holland landing on the disabled list Wednesday, the Rangers opted to recall Jackson to take his spot on the active roster. Jackson had his struggles during his stint with the big league club earlier in the season, recording a 7.04 ERA over 7.2 innings of work. He'll likely work out of the pen, but the Rangers will have to make a roster move in the coming days when they need a starter to take Holland's spot in the rotation, so this could be a short stint for Jackson.
Jackson was optioned back to Triple-A Round Rock on Thursday, Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Catcher Robinson Chirinos was activated from the disabled list Thursday, so Jackson will head to Triple-A to free up a spot on the 25-man roster. The right-hander has made five appearances for the Rangers on the season, allowing 11 hits and six earned runs over 7.2 innings. He's fared better at Round Rock, where he holds a 3.68 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.