Taylor Jordan’s second career start for the Washington Nationals Thursday was an exercise in patience, and trust. Before the game against Milwaukee even began, he was leaning on pitching coach Steve McCatty to quell his nerves, and McCatty loosened the 24-year-old up with an attempt at humor. During a pregame throwing session, McCatty asked Jordan if he knew the first name of the player on the receiving end of his pitches.
The bullpen catcher’s name was Octavio Martinez, he would learn.
Jordan pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits (of his 85 pitches, 60 were strikes) in an 8-5 win over Milwaukee, but that was only part of his education. He shook off several signals from starting catcher Wilson Ramos. He had a “different idea” about what he wanted to throw, but shortstop Ian Desmond would later tell him to trust Ramos behind the plate.
“After that,” Jordan said, “I didn’t shake him off at all.”
Jordan was just eight pitches into his start Thursday when he lost control of a fastball and beaned Milwaukee’s Jean Segura. Entering the final game of a four-game set with the Brewers, he faced questions about whether the Nationals would provide him with better run support (he lost his career debut five days earlier against the New York Mets, because of stagnant offense), but also whether the 24-year-old would progress with his command.
The plunking of Segura, who scored later in the inning to give Milwaukee a quick 1-0 lead, was not an encouraging sign. But on a day when the Nationals awoke from their two-day offensive slumber, Jordan also displayed quality control from that moment on. Most importantly, he looked and felt more comfortable than in his debut.
“I felt that it went pretty good. I wish I would’ve had better command of my
changeup today,” Jordan said. “It was spotty. It was up and down.”
Jordan struck out six and forced eight groundball outs for the Nationals, and said later that he was pleased with the placement of his fastballs. With the Nationals ahead 3-2, he was pulled from the game for reliever Ross Ohlendorf after giving up a two-out, one-run single to Juan Francisco in the sixth.
Even a no-decision was a mark of progress for Jordan; so was pitching in the Washington humidity and placing his trust in Ramos. The fact that he started on the Fourth of July, in front of a festive crowd at Nationals Park, was another. He has carved himself a place in the organization after overcoming Tommy John surgery in 2011 and by pitching well in the minors (including a 0.83 ERA in nine games at the AA level this year.)
With Dan Haren due back in the starting rotation June 9, it’s likely Jordan will be re-assigned to the minors next week.
“I had a lot more ground balls today, a lot more weak hits. I think this is how it
should’ve gone,” he said, adding that in the near future, majors or minors, he plans to “just keep on doing what got me here.”