The Washington Times - March 29, 2012, 06:27PM

VIERA, Fla. — Edwin Jackson was superb in six scoreless innings of work on Thursday. So efficient that he didn’t even reach his allotted 85-pitch limit, Jackson kept his pitches down in the zone, got early contact and fell into a rhythm — which seems to be key for the right-hander.

The lone blemish on his day was a home run by Jason Heyward that cleared the 35-foot-high batters eye in center field, 410 feet from home plate. Outfielder Michael Morse, who had been walking behind the wall, poked his head over to see who could have possibly hit that ball.


The pitch was a fastball, Jackson said, then deadpanned, “I think he just missed it, though. I don’t think he got all of it.”

“Pretty good,” he added. “If you’re going to give ‘em up, that’s the way to give ‘em up.”

Here’s what Jackson had to say about the rest of his penultimate tuneup before the season:

On his start on the whole: “I was just trying to get the ball rolling as we get into the season. I know spring has been kind of up and down, but just trying to go out with a little bit more focus and a little bit more season mentality.”

On his pitches having better location than his last start where he gave up 10 runs: “It was just a matter of going out and making the hitters put the ball in play. Early, I started off it was kind of slow as far as rhythm and then kind of picked it up as the game went on and found a nice rhythm. Ramos and myself, we were pretty much in-sync the whole game, so kept things going and allowed the defense to make plays.”

On if he prepared as if it were a regular-season start: “You just try to go out and up the focus a little bit more. It’s down to the wire, probably have another couple innings, maybe another start, another game. Not sure how deep I’ll go, but the season’s right around the corner. You try to get the ball rolling and get an early groove to get things going into the season.”

On if it was important for him to finally go six innings: “Today I was finally able to get my work in, pass three or four innings. The main thing is, when I come out the game, that I’m able to feel like I can still go out and throw. That’s what we try to do, continue to build arm strength and I did that today. I felt like I could go back out after I came out.”

On if he’s comfortable where he’s at with his mechanics, etc.: “Whatever allows me to be able to throw strikes and make them put the ball in play. I’m definitely comfortable with it, but the last three times, I haven’t really been thinking about it, about mechanics, just go out and let whatever happens naturally happen… That’s a good thing for anybody. Anybody that’s out there thinking about mechanics, it’s not real good. You’re thinking about mechanics, then you’re thinking about trying to get outs, then you’re thinking about everything else. The less we think, the better off we are.”

– Nationals outfielders Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina are both unavailable for Friday night’s game agains the Marlins. Ankiel is still nursing a sore quad while Bernadina is expected back from Curacao late Friday night after the funeral for his father.

– Right-hander Chad Durbin has left Nationals camp to be with his wife, Crystal, as she’s expected to deliver the couple’s second child, a son, on Friday morning. Durbin is still in the mix to make the Nationals out of camp but manager Davey Johnson has indicated several times that with Drew Storen on the disabled list, Ryan Mattheus appears set to take that spot on the roster. Durbin has an opt-out in his contract and he said he’d explore other options before accepting a minor league assignment.

But those are all thoughts for another day for Durbin, as his mind, I’m sure, is nowhere near a baseball field right now.

– Nationals left-hander Sean Burnett made his first appearance Thursday since a bout of back spasms. Johnson said Burnett looked a bit rusty, giving up a run on two hits and a walk, but he settled in and as long as he’s healthy, the Nationals aren’t worried about him.

– Ryan Zimmerman hit his third home run of the spring Thursday, but it was his only hit in four at-bats, dropping his spring average to .385.