Taylor Jordan, who is competing for the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation, will start the Nationals’ Grapefruit League opener on Friday against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie. Manager Matt Williams wasn’t prepared to name Saturday’s starter yet, but there are several options. There are a lot of starters in camp now, all who need innings, and there are at least three — Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark and Jordan — who are competing for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Jordan faced hitters during live batting practice on Tuesday, giving him two days off before his Friday start, which will be obviously be abbreviated since it’s his first one. He will be followed by a string of relievers making the trip to Port St. Lucie. So far, Williams has been impressed with Jordan.
“The ball just comes out of his hand really nicely,” he said. “For me, a mid-90s fastball with movement. Good changeup, breaking ball for strikes. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen. It’s electric stuff out of the hand. I can’t wait to see him in a game and get an opposition hitter in there and have some competition for him.”
Jordan broke his ankle during the offseason, which he called “a minor setback” and has fully healed. He hasn’t been slowed by it during camp and has been a full participant.
“He’s gone through everything that we’ve asked him to go through,” Williams said. “No reports from the medical staff on any issues and he’s participated in every drill at a really high effort level so I don’t see any problems with it.”
Williams said he wouldn’t begin putting the starters in order for the regular season until around March 18, the last offday during the Grapefruit league schedule and over a week before the final game.
● During his second live batting practice session on Tuesday, Gio Gonzalez drew a formidable group of hitters: Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Scott Hairston. Werth hit perhaps the best against Gonzalez, but it was Harper who whiffed on a wicked curveball from the left-handed starter. Gonzalez looked sharp and was fist-pumped by coaches after walking off the mound.
● Doug Fister looked sharp again during live batting practice and none of the hitters he faced managed hard contact against him. Rafael Soriano, who normally starts his spring routine later, faced batters for the first time. He broke a few bats and laughed while on the mound facing Wilson Ramos, who managed a few hits against him. Williams has been pleased with Soriano’s work so far.
“From what I’ve heard, he started a little bit later last year,” Williams said. “That’s his third or fourth bullpen. Today was his first live. On the mound three or four times so far. I like where he’s at. We don’t want to get in a situation where we have to try to ramp him up late. I like where he’s at right now. Balls into the strike zone really good. Broke a couple bats today. A good sign.”
● Minor league infielder Josh Johnson, who was in big league camp as a non-roster invitee, had surgery to remove a broken hamate bone in his left hand and will be sidelined between four and six weeks, Williams said. Johnson, 28, reached Class AAA Syracuse last year. He has a career .253/.375/.356 slash line in 903 minor league games. He posted a .847 OPS across Class AA Harrisburg and Syracuse last season.