Through four starts this season, Nationals right-hander Taylor Jordan has struggled. In about two weeks, starter Doug Fister may be ready to slide into the Nationals’ rotation after recovering from a strained lat muscle. With the way Tanner Roark has pitched, especially his dominant start on Saturday against the San Diego Padres, Jordan is the one likely to push out of the current rotation to make space.
That decision, however, is weeks away. And for now, all the Nationals have told Jordan is to relax and trust his stuff. After a stellar 2013 in the minor leagues and a 3.66 ERA over nine major league starts, Jordan has a 6.23 ERA over 21 2/3 innings this season. His command has been off, his sinkers battered around and his velocity is down. His confidence has likely taken a hit. There were even questions about whether he would make his next start, which will be Sunday against the San Diego Padres.
Pitching coach Steve McCatty has urged the 25-year-old Jordan to slow down while on the mound. There is nothing unusual about Jordan’s mechanics, McCatty said, but he needs to recapture his aggressiveness and focus on keeping his sinking fastballs down in the strike zone.
But the possibility that his major league stay might be shortened with Fister’s return has perhaps played a factor in Jordan’s mentality. During his competition against Roark during spring training, Jordan admitted he was nervous about performing well.
“I’m sure it has,” McCatty said. “I think it’s a possibility. You can’t worry about that. You control the things that you can control. So that means go out and do your job and don’t worry about what’s going to happen to anybody. You’re pitching to protect something and almost instead of trying to keep something. It’s a different way of training your thought. Not necessarily in that situation, but if you’re worrying about giving up runs, you’re going to give up more than you should. If you’re worried about somebody coming back, whatever, then you’re putting added pressure on yourself because there is nothing you can really do about it.”
Not only has his performance slipped but Jordan’s velocity, too, has dropped this season. He averaged 92 mph on his sinker last season but is averaging 89.5 mph this season. In his last start against the Angels, he was throwing 88-mph sinkers in his final inning. McCatty said he has talked with General Manager Mike Rizzo about the dip in velocity.
“I’m not sure if that over his whole minor league career that the speeds aren’t less than they were last year,” McCatty said. “Last year, everything was clicking, he was throwing everything with a little more velocity. If you have a tendency to try and aim the ball instead of just saying, ‘Relax, I want to make sure I do good,’ you take a little off. Spring training he was up to 93 and 94. Psychologically, it may be affecting him a little bit but you can’t do that. You just gotta do what you do. If you do really well, any decision that is made by anybody is really tough. So you gotta give your best outing every time so to speak and not worry about what is going to happen.”