Taylor Jordan is slated to make at least one more start for the Nationals during his current stint in the major leagues. Ross Detwiler, whom he replaced in the rotation, is on the disabled list with a back strain and is expected to return at the back of the starting rotation after the all-star break.
But given the uncertainty surrounding Dan Haren, a starter who just came off the disabled list in the midst of the worst season of his career, and Detwiler, who landed on it for a second time, the Nationals may lean on Jordan in a second-half push for the playoffs. In his first three starts, the rookie has shown he possesses the nerve to handle a pennant race while learning on the fly.
“I don’t think he’s awed by it at all,” pitching coach Steve McCatty said. “He’s happy to be here. I don’t think he’s afraid of it, whatsoever. That first game, I’m sure he was nervous. I don’t feel like he thinks he’s overmatched or anything like that. He just goes about his business.”
In his third start Tuesday night against the Phillies in Philadelphia, the 24-year-old escaped a handful of jams. He induced double plays in the first, third and fifth innings, preventing base runners from scoring in each of them. He stumbled in his third time through the order against the Phillies, allowing three runs in the sixth inning, but was betrayed by some bad luck and less-than-crisp defense.
“It’s just getting to know the league,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “He got a little worried about the guys on base there. He had guys two strikes, no balls and then gave them a really good strike. He’s a sinkerballer. You go down with it. That’s just experience. You can get away with that in maybe A ball but you can’t get away with it here.”
Jordan was chased from the game after allowing a two-run double by Michael Young in the sixth. He fired an inside fastball, the only one he showed Young all game, and he smacked it to right-center. (“He just hit it,” Jordan said.) He walked off the mound after allowing four runs, three earned, on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings.
“I liked the way he was throwing,” Johnson said. “He’d get ahead of guys and then, like I say, made too good a pitch.”
With each start, Jordan feels like he has settled in. He pitched into the sixth inning for the second straight start and was excited to do so. The command of his fastball has improved with each start. And, his nerves have subsided. “It’s definitely coming easier now,” he said.
“No fear,” McCatty added. “He’s going to go out there and he’s going to pitch. His attitude is, ‘I’m going to throw strikes.’ He goes after guys. He’s going to make his pitch. I don’t think after he throws it and misses it, there’s a whole lot of thought.”
Jordan still has much to learn. He has allowed only six earned runs in 15 2/3 innings, a 3.45 ERA, and walked only three batters. The second and third times through the order he has noticed teams picking up his pitches better, a byproduct of him perhaps tipping his pitches when he reveals his grip when holding the ball behind his back. “I need to change that or do something,” he said.
But Jordan has impressed enough within the organization that he could be counted on beyond next Sunday if needed.
“When new pitchers come up, they have the advantage the first couple starts at least, because there’s not much video on him and nobody knows what they tend to do,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “This league, there’s a reason why it’s hard to stay around. Because there’s so much information that if you can’t adapt or adjust to what the league does to you, it’s tough. But I think he’s got the stuff to do that. I don’t see why he can’t.”
FROM THE POST
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Buffalo 6, Syracuse 2: Danny Rosenbaum allowed five runs, three earned, over 5 2/3 innings. Jeff Mandel tossed two scoreless. Danny Espinosa went 1 for 3 with no strikeouts and is hitting .185. Will Rhymes hit his second home run of the season.
Potomac 5, Winston-Salem 0: Marcos Frias started, but he and David Fischer combined to allow only four hits over 7 scoreless innings. Richie Mirowski lowered his ERA to 1.67 with two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth. Adrian Nieto continues his hot streak, finishing 1 for 3 with two runs and is hitting .302 on the season. Adrian Sanchez went 2 for 4.
Hickory 4, Hagerstown 3: Pedro Encarnacion allowed four runs on four hits with seven strikeouts over six innings. Estarlin Martinez went 1 for 4 with a double and RBI. Khayyan Norfork finished 2 for 4.
Williamsport 3, Auburn 1: Joel Barrientos allowed two runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings and Jake Joyce tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings. James Yezzo with 2 for 4 with a double.