Getting to know Jay Jackson: His time in the minor leagues, the decision to sign with the Blue Jays, and more

Photo credit:Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
1 year ago
Jay Jackson is a pitcher who has seen and done a lot through over 16 seasons as a professional baseball player. Various leagues across the globe, grinding through the minors, and outings at the big league level all started after he decided to take his talents to Furman University.
“The program was in my hometown and put forward one of the best scholarship packages to attend their university. Being in my hometown, being the school it was with the academic schedule and the baseball program, and also because my little sister has down-syndrome, and I really wanted to be close to her. It just worked out really well.
Jackson would later be drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the ninth round of the 2008 MLB Draft and he would make his MLB debut with the San Diego Padres in 2015, appearing in six games and striking out four batters through 4.1 innings in relief.

Right-hander Jay Jackson spoke to Blue Jays Nation about his baseball career and his decision to sign with the Blue Jays on two separate occasions this offseason

“I was a top prospect with the Cubs and things didn’t work out there, had a change of scenery with a few different clubs, and the funny thing is that the season was over for me in Triple-A and the Padres called me up shortly after to pitch in the big leagues. I thought my season was over but they (Padres) had a plan in place for me.”
The South Carolina product followed that season by heading overseas to Japan, spending three seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan as well as the 2020 campaign with the Chiba Lotte Marines. “When the opportunity presented itself, I was able to play against some of the top competition in Japan and I thought this was a better opportunity for myself and my family, both in development and financially. It was great to stay in that top league, feel comfortable, and not have to worry about player options or the politics of baseball and really enjoy the game.”
The right-hander also has his fair share of outings in the Mexican Pacific Winter League throughout his career, starting in the 2012/2013 offseason through the 2015/2016 offseason while also spending a solo campaign in the Venezuelan Winter League early in his career.
At the Major League level, Jackson owns a 4.21 ERA through 59 outings and 57 2/3 innings, authoring a 12.5 K/9 with 31 walks (4.8 BB/9) with a 1.318 WHIP, split between the Padres, the Brewers, the Giants, and the Braves.
Heading into the 2023 season, the Toronto Blue Jays had one of the deepest pitching staffs seen in recent memory. Most of the core from the 2022 season was returning, minus one David Phelps who retired in the offseason, and there were only one or two spots open on the big league squad.
With all that in mind, Jackson decided to sign with the Blue Jays this past offseason, noting how the front office was interested early into the process, “The Blue Jays reached out the first day of free agency and put a great offer on the table. I felt that I didn’t want to sign that early into the season and I wanted to watch how other interested teams were forming and who they were signing after they expressed interest. This is one of the first times in my career where it feels like I am wanted by the organization and it felt great. It’s huge for any player to feel like and to get that so early into the free agent process and feel valued was huge.”
Speaking on his spring training with the Blue Jays, Jackson noted how he felt with the club, “As long as I am healthy, I feel like I can succeed and win on the mound. I feel like I can hold my own and be aggressive and trust myself, attacking hitters. This spring, staying healthy, I was able to be aggressive and be that person I expect to be and I know what I work with.”
Jackson had some great outings with the Jays, not allowing a single earned run through eight outings with just seven hits, two walks, and striking out 13 batters while holding opponents to a .200 batting average. He was a real contender to break camp with the Jays heading into the season but the club informed him that he would not make the Opening Day roster towards the end of camp, with the reliever deciding to opt out of his contract and become a free agent again.
“Both sides had talked, so I had opted out after the club told me I wasn’t going to make the big league roster out of camp. It wasn’t personal for either side, it was a tough business decision and we both relayed that. Other organizations reached out once I was a free agent and I was looking for an opportunity in the big leagues but the Blue Jays reached out and asked what it would take for a deal and they matched what I wanted right away. I wanted to be here (with the Jays) and I felt that this organization was a better fit for myself, my family, and my family. It has been such an amazing experience.”
Even with the outside interest, Jackson decided to return to the Jays organization on a split deal that would see him start the year in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons.
In his first outing with the Bisons, Jackson struck out the side on two swinging strikeouts and one called strike, including veteran Greg Allen and former Red Sox top prospect Jarren Duran. Since then, Jackson has appeared in two more games and has two earned runs on his record, which has elevated his ERA to 5.40 given the small sample size, but the righty reliever also has a 16.2 K/9 with six punchouts against 16 batters faced.
As the season continues on, Jackson will be one pitcher to keep an eye on down in AAA, as the 35-year-old is one of the more experienced arms in the Bisons bullpen and has found success at the big league level compared to some of his less experienced counterparts. Although the talent pool is stacked with up-and-coming arms, Jackson should factor into the big-league club at some point this season.


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