First-year skipper Matt Williams told reporters before this afternoon's Grapefruit League game with the Miami Marlins that he still wasn't sure which pitcher would end up being the fifth starter in the Washington Nationals' rotation behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister.
"It's still fluid," Williams said. "It's still fluid right now."
"Tanner [Roark] made a really good case, and he's made a really good case all spring, but then again, so has Taylor. So, again, that's why we want to play today. I want to see [Jordan] pitch again. We all do. And so we'll make that decision when it's appropriate, but as of right now, my mind is not made up."
His mind still wasn't made up after another strong outing by Jordan today.
He ended up going 5 2/3 innings against the Marlins, giving up a hit, a walk and one earned run in a 4-1 Nats' win. In his sixth appearance and fourth start of the spring, Jordan struck out two batters and induced 11 groundouts from the 22 batters he faced.
In 20 2/3 IP in Florida, the Nats' '09 9th Round pick ended up with up 20 Ks total and 24 hits, nine runs, all earned, and just two walks allowed.
"He was really good," Williams said after the game. "Really good. And of course he's made a case and he's pitched well the whole spring for us. So, it's going to be a very difficult decision and they're both pitching really well and it's a good thing."
Williams said there wasn't any one thing that set Roark and Jordan apart or gave one an advantage over the other as he saw it.
"They both have unique ways of going about it," Williams explained.
"Taylor certainly has taken the advice of [Steve McCatty] and the catchers and is using the sinker more and throwing his changeup and his breaking ball off of it and of course he's just pounded the strike zone in these last couple of outings which has been great. So they both make a great case and it's a very nice problem to contemplate."
Jordan pointed to that particularly rough outing against the Detroit Tigers early this month, in which he gave up seven hits and four runs in three innings, as a turning point for him this spring.
"I'm trying to get back to what I originally got to the big leagues for, [which] is ground ball outs," he explained after today's outing. "I'm a sinker ball pitcher and I kind of got away from that during the Detroit game. It was a weird game for me. Mentally it was a weird game for me too. I'm just sticking with the sinker, sticking with what's best for me."
What exactly changed for him after that outing Jordan couldn't say, though he admitted to worrying in his first few starts about how he would recover from the broken ankle he suffered in a poolside accident this past winter.
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"I don't know how it changed," Jordan said, but he got over thinking too much about the competition for the rotation.
"I just stopped worrying about it. I was really nervous on the mound my first couple games and my nerves have gone away now, so I don't really think about it any more."
The ankle was definitely a concern.
"That was definitely a part of it," he said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to hurt my ankle. It's just one of those things. I've never hurt or broken a bone in my life, so I don't know I'm going to come back from it. So I'm really pleased with how I am right now."
"Honestly, I'm really pleased that I came back this strong after breaking my ankle this offseason. I'm extremely pleased that I'm as healthy as I am right now."
Even if he ends up getting sent down to the Nats' top affiliate to start the season, Jordan said he could find the positive in the Nationals' decision.
"I'm happy to go to Triple-A," he told reporters. "It's still a bump up for me. I've never even been to Triple-A. Like I said last year, it was just a blessing to be up in the big leagues, I don't expect anything."
He would, of course, prefer to pitch in the majors.
"The experience is definitely something that I love," Jordan said. "I love playing in the big leagues because I get the experience. Every game it seems like I'm learning, picking up on things, whereas in the minor leagues I'm not, you know... learning as much."
So when will the Nationals announce their final decision?
"We don't have a deadline," Williams said this afternoon. "We're going to get back today and talk about it. Certainly I would imagine we'll talk about it again tomorrow and get a consensus of everybody and look at it, but no deadline as of right now, but we'll certainly spend a lot of time the next couple of days."
Jordan's not letting himself worry about it.
"Like I said, I'm not really concerned or worried or anything, I'm just, 'Whatever happens, happens.'"
And he's happy to see Roark having success.
"It's really nice to see him doing well too," Jordan said.
And he didn't see any reason to have any ill will toward his competition.
"I have to do the best I can. If he does great, then great for him. He's worked hard his whole life, who am I to wish negatively upon him?"