Taylor Jordan took advantage of the day off on Tuesday to rest, go out for breakfast for a change, relax and try to not think about the pressure of battling for the fifth spot in the Washington Nationals' rotation.
"Honestly, I really can't think about it," the 25-year-old Nats' '09 9th Round pick told reporters after Wednesday night's five-inning Grapefruit League outing against the Houston Astros in Space Coast Stadium. "Yesterday was a nice day to collect myself and just have a great day and just not stress. And that's exactly what I did. Just not worry about it."
It was back to work tonight, however, and the sinkerballing right-hander impressed again, battling through a rough first and giving up just one run on one hit in a 69-pitch start in which he induced nine ground ball outs from the 19 batters he faced.
Jose Altuve reached base on an infield single in the game's first at bat. Nats' third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made a diving play on a sharp grounder and threw wide of first base pulling Adam LaRoche off the bag. The Astros' shortstop then got caught trying to steal second, only to reach safely when Jordan stepped off and threw the ball by Nats' shortstop Ian Desmond at second and into center field. The throwing error allowed Altuve to take third and then score on an RBI groundout which accounted for the only run Houston would need in their 2-0 win.
A two-out walk and single to right stretched Jordan out to 21 pitches in the first.
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"I think we let him down a little bit in the first inning," Nationals' Manager Matt Williams told reporters after the game, "but he pitched his way out of it and he threw well the rest of the time he was out there. Good changeup again, fastballs in the strike zone, which was good."
Adam LaRoche booted a grounder in the first at bat of the second, but Jordan got a double play grounder out of Astros' shortstop Jonathan Villar and proceeded to retire 11 of the next 12 batters he faced, surrendering only a leadoff double in his final inning of work.
Taylor Jordan's Line: 5.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB (first of the spring), 5 Ks, 9/1 GO/FO, 69 P…
His manager was impressed with the way Jordan dealt with the trouble in the first and worked through it to put together another strong outing.
"It happens," Williams said of the defensive miscues. "It's going to happen at some point during the season where you meet some adversity, but he handled it good. Shows he's maturing."
"You present him with those situations," the Nats' skipper said of the learning experiences. "You're going to learn from it. So, I think he settled in really nicely. It was good."
"My first innings are usually my... for whatever reason or another I'm not totally pumped or whatnot," Jordan said. "But after my first inning, things usually go more smoothly. The first inning, nothing I can really do about it, so I'm not going to stress on it."
The botched pick attempt on Altuve actually started well with Jordan catching the speedy infielder as he tried to get a good jump.
"He stepped off," Williams said. "We had him in plenty of time, but the throw was a little wide. But that's why we're here. Those situations present themselves. That's why you call it Spring Training. You don't want it to happen, but it does."
Jordan said he was actually expecting Altuve to take off.
'"Honestly, I was kind of thinking that he would. I thought it was going to happen last game, so I was kind of ready for it. Somebody gets on that is fast, look for it, I'm a young pitcher, they think I'm not ready for it and I might balk. But I'm ready for it. So, I just made a bad throw. I knew that he was really fast, and it seemed with the yelling that it was a sense of urgency, so I did it as fast as I could, turned and threw it as fast as I could."
Outside of the throwing error and the stressful first, however, he was happy with the outing.
"I was definitely focusing on my fastball command today more than my offspeed," Jordan said, "because that's just the type of pitcher I am. Sinkerballer, ground ball pitcher. I'm not a strikeout machine or whatever. So, I had some good movement on my fastball today, that was nice to see."
"I thought my control wasn't how I wanted it," he continued. "But I had some good movement on my sinker today and my changeup was working here and there. I was overall happy with it."
Through 15 IP this spring, Jordan's now allowed 19 hits and eight runs all earned, walking just one and striking out 18 batters. Not a bad start to the 2014 campaign, especially considering that after working his way up from High-A Potomac to the majors last season in his first full year back following Tommy John surgery in 2011, his winter began with a broken ankle suffered in a freak poolside accident.
"I didn't know if I was going to be ready for Spring Training because I broke it in October," Jordan said. "And I had to really hurry up on my rehab and my lifting and throwing. I had to just be on top of it this offseason."
He's 100% now.
"Honestly, my ankle feels as good as new," he told reporters tonight, "minus some extra stretching that I should do because as I was in the brace the ligament shortened so I have to keep on stretching it and get my elasticity back."
Tanner Roark impressed in a start against minor leaguers on Tuesday. Jordan impressed again tonight.
Matt Williams has one tough decision ahead of him in the last couple of weeks before the 2014 campaign begins. That is, provided Doug Fister is healthy and built up enough to start the season in the rotation.
"We look at [Doug] Fister certainly as the tell-tale sign there in that regard," Williams said tonight, "because if he's ready to go for his first start then we have one spot to fill. If he's not then we potentially have two, so that makes your decision at that point. But all indications are that Doug is going to be ready, and again, we have to monitor that as we go along."