At the end of last season, Taylor Jordan looked ahead to a normal, uneventful winter. He had put his 2011 Tommy John surgery completely behind him. He would report to major league spring training for the first time and fight for the fifth starter spot.
And then he broke his ankle.
As pitchers and catchers reported today, Jordan cast the thin scar running down his left ankle only as an annoyance, a “minor setback.” Jordan broke his left ankle early in the offseason when he slipped climbing out of his pool, he said. While it ruined his plans of a calm offseason, it will not affect him this spring as he tries to claim the Nationals’ No. 5 starter in an open competition.
Jordan threw a bullpen session this morning, and he has been playing catch for weeks. The Nationals have cleared him for regular participation. The worst part is behind him: shuttling from his home in Florida to Washington for check-ups on his ankle.
“This wasn’t as bad [as Tommy John surgery], but still rehab is rehab,” Jordan said. “Takes time off from other stuff I was trying to do.”
Jordan will have to be mindful of his ankle in order to protect his arm. He has carefully monitored his ankle to ensure it will not have any effect on his form, which could lead to injury. So far, it hasn’t been an issue.
“They told me if I thought that I was changing my mechanics or things just weren’t right, to just stop throwing altogether until I was healthy,” Jordan said. “But I haven’t had a problem since day one. I’ve been throwing since January 1.”
Jordan joined the Nationals’ rotation for nine starts last season, using his sinker to create loads of groundballs as he posted a 3.66 ERA. Jordan will compete with Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark and Ross Ohlendorf for the final spot in the Nationals’ rotation.
“I have to work and earn a spot,” Jordan said. “Just because I’m here right now doesn’t mean I’ll be here in a month, or even after spring training. Just have to work hard.
“I’m just trying to be healthy. Hopefully I can compete with the level here. Because I did have a setback, and I don’t feel like it’s slowing me down at this point, but maybe down the line. Who knows? I don’t really know.”
Jordan said his first taste of the majors last year would not change his approach, but he learned one interesting lesson from his time with the Nationals. He learned about the mental side of pitching from listening to major league hitters converse.
“I like to listen to hitters, how they talk. It’s fun to think about what they think about,” Jordan said. “Because I don’t know. I’m not really a hitter by heart. So if I’m hearing my teammates talking about, ‘Oh, look at him doing a slidestep now and again, crossing up my timing or messing up the runner,’ maybe I’ll do it. Try it, mix in whatever he’s doing. Just listen. Try new things.”
Just a quick note: It looks like every Nationals pitcher is accounted for. Doug Fister had not reported as of late in the afternoon, but the Nationals were aware that he was experiencing difficulties with flight cancellations on his way from California. Danny Espinosa also arrived today. Mike Rizzo happened to be in the clubhouse when Espinosa walked in, and Rizzo greeted him with a hug.