The Brewers have selected the contract of right-hander Jay Jackson from Triple-A San Antonio and opened a spot on the roster by designating right-hander Alex Wilson for assignment, per a club announcement. The Brewers also placed righty Aaron Wilkerson on the 10-day injured list due to a left foot contusion and recalled left-hander Donnie Hart from San Antonio in his place.
Jackson’s promotion marks the culmination of a lengthy journey back to the big leagues for the 31-year-old. The right-hander appeared in six games with the 2015 Padres, totaling 4 1/3 innings of bullpen work, but was cut loose that offseason in order to pursue an opportunity in Japan. The 2008 ninth-round pick could have stuck with the Padres that year in hopes of surviving the offseason and spending the next season as an up-and-down reliever, though there was no certainty or fiscal security associated with that route. Rather, Jackson took a chance on venturing overseas and not only found success, but became one of the most dominant relievers in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball over the next three seasons.
In three seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, Jackson pitched to a combined 2.13 ERA with 202 strikeouts against 70 walks in 182 innings as a member of the Carp. He explored the possibility of a return to the U.S. after his second season in Japan but, apparently not finding any offers to his liking, returned for a third season in NPB. Ultimately, the Brewers made Jackson a minor league offer to return to the organization — he’d pitched in their minor league system in 2014 — that the righty accepted.
It’s still early in the Triple-A season, but Jackson has torn through opposing lineups in the Pacific Coast League, pitching 8 2/3 innings of shutout relief with a 14-to-2 K/BB ratio and just four hits allowed. Given the inconsistencies in the Milwaukee ’pen beyond Josh Hader and Junior Guerra, Jackson could very well have a legitimate opportunity to entrench himself in Craig Counsell’s relief corps. Milwaukee has hopes that Jeremy Jeffress, recently activated from the injured list, can help to stabilize matters, but the team has already lost Corey Knebel to Tommy John surgery and designated both Wilson and Jake Petricka for assignment in the past 48 hours.
Wilson, 32, spent Spring Training as a non-roster invitee with the Indians after being non-tendered by the Tigers last December. He didn’t earn a spot in the Cleveland ’pen, however, and later signed on with the Brewers on a big league deal once health concerns in the Milwaukee ’pen began to mount.
Although he’s long been a steady presence in the Detroit bullpen, Wilson was tattooed for a dozen runs on 15 hits (three homers) and nine walks with 13 strikeouts in 11 1/3 frames with the Brewers. He started off with three strong outings in a row before being hammered for six runs his fourth time out, and the right-hander never managed to fully recover. Three of his past four outings have seen him yield a pair of earned runs.
The Brewers will have a week to trade Wilson, release him, or pass him through outright waivers (though he could reject an outright assignment and take free agency instead). His contract reportedly came with a fairly minimal $750K base salary, so even if there’s no 45-day advance consent clause in the deal, the financial loss is hardly prohibitive for the Milwaukee organization.