Over the next 24 to 72 hours, as the Nationals decide his immediate professional fate, Taylor Jordan will relax. Matt Williams will either tell him he made the Nationals’ roster as their final starter, or he will tell him his season will begin in the minors. The discrepancy gnawed at Jordan early this spring. By now, he has pushed it out of his mind.
“I’m not really concerned or worried or anything,” Jordan said. “Just whatever happens, happens.”
Jordan concluded his spring today in the Nationals’ 4-1 victory over the Marlins. In 5 2/3 innings, Jordan allowed one run on five hits, walking one batter and striking out two. He mostly threw his sinker and recorded 11 groundball outs compared to three in the air. A day after Tanner Roark finished his spring training bid to claim the fifth starter spot, Jordan stated his case.
“Of course he’s made a case,” Williams said. “He’s pitched well the whole spring for us. It’s going to be a very difficult decision. They’re both pitching very well, and that’s a good thing.”
Williams, his coaching staff and front office personnel will weigh the decision between Roark and Jordan tonight and Tuesday morning. Williams did not set a deadline to make the move, but he also wants to set the 25-man roster by the time the Nationals fly home Thursday.
This spring, Jordan, 25, struck out 20, walked two and allowed 24 hits and nine earned runs over 20 2/3 innings. Roark, 27, pitched 13 2/3 major league innings and allowed five earned runs on 11 hits and three walks while striking out 11.
Jordan has a higher ceiling and produces loads of groundballs with his sinker. Roark has more polish and operates with a 94-mph fastball and a wicked curve, both of which he commands with precision. They both proved themselves in big league cameos last season. Got a coin?
“I don’t know how you could be wrong,” Williams said. “That’s a great, difficult decision to have.”
Jordan would view an assignment to pitch at Class AAA Syracuse as a promotion of sorts. He came to the majors straight from Class AA Harrisburg, after fewer than 100 innings above Low-A Hagerstown.
“I’m not really confident in anything,” Jordan said. “I’m just going to play it by ear. I’m happy to go to Triple-A. It’s still a bump up for me. I’ve never even been to Triple-A. Last year was just a blessing to be up in the big leagues. I don’t expect anything.”
>>> Fourth outfielder Nate McLouth went 2 for 3 with a walk, an RBI double and a homer to right this afternoon. Before today, McLouth had just six hits, two for extra bases, all spring. His big day resulted from a minor epiphany in an at-bat Sunday.
“Yesterday in my last at-bat, I started to finally feel some timing,” McLouth said. “I was able to carry it over to today. It’s really what I’ve been searching for the whole spring training. I was lucky to find it yesterday in my last at-bat and carry it over into today. You can work on it in BP, but it’s totally different in the game. For me, it was just that one at-bat. I finally felt it, and I was able to carry it over.”
McLouth, who’s hitting .242/.316/.485 in 33 at-bats, did not worry about finding his swing. But he still felt relief once he did.
“You don’t panic,” McLouth said. “Sometimes it’s day one, sometimes it’s the second week, sometimes it’s the last day. It finally came yesterday.”
>>> The Nationals plan for second baseman Anthony Rendon, who has been out since Thursday with a nasty chest cold, to return tomorrow, Williams said. Rendon went through a full workout this morning in Viera. “We’ll have to see how reacts,” Williams said.
>>> Like a lot of players on the fringe of the roster, left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez can only wait to learn his fate. Today, the Nationals brought him to Jupiter, but he did not appear in the game. Gonzalez says the uncertainty of the final few days before the end of spring has not affected him.
“I’m good, man,” Gonzalez said. “I knew coming into the situation what it was going to be about. I also know where I am things. It’s going right to the end. It’s pretty much down to the wire. I understand that. I’m feeling good, man. I’m feeling good about the situation.”
Williams raised the possibility of keeping three left-handed relievers to face the Braves and Mets early in the season. Still, Gonzalez seems to be on the outside looking in. Aaron Barrett fired another scoreless inning today, giving him 9 2/3 innings without allowing a run. The Nationals pitched Barrett on back-to-back days, which is typical for pitchers whom the team wants to prepare for the season.
This spring, Gonzalez has allowed four runs in four innings. One scout pointed out that he’s been able to throw his fastball inside to right-handed hitters, a sign that he’s feeling strong.
“You never want to give up a run, dude,” Gonzalez said. “But I’m happy with the way I feel. I feel healthy. Arm feels live. I know I can go out there and compete at the big league level. That’s the big thing. … I know I can pitch in the big leagues. That’s not a doubt in my mind. I’m good with it.”
>>> Catcher Chris Snyder can opt out of his minor league contract Wednesday, he told MLB.com. Snyder lost any chance to make the Nationals. barring an injury, after they traded for Jose Lobaton early in spring. Snyder may provide depth at Syracuse if he cannot find a big league team to hook on with.
UPDATE, 9:25: The Nationals released Snyder.
>>> The Mets announced right-hander Dillon Gee will start opening day against the Nationals. Last year, Gee posted a 2.42 ERA in four starts against the Nationals.