According to Matt Wiliams, right-hander Taylor Jordan is going to start the first Grapefruit League game of the year for the Washington Nationals this Friday afternoon when the Nats take on the New York Mets in Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, FL. The Nationals' starter has come a long way in the last year.
Jordan's 2013 campaign started at High-A Potomac, where the '09 Nats' 9th Round pick was (2-1) with a 1.24 ERA, 2.46 FIP, six walks (1.49 BB/9) and 29 Ks (7.18 K/9) in six starts and 36 1/3 IP. The 6'3'' righty then got promoted to Double-A Harrisburg where he made nine appearances, eight of them starts, going (7-0) with a 0.83 ERA, 2.39 FIP, nine walks (1.50 BB/9) and 43 Ks (7.17 K/9) in 54 IP before he was called up to make his major league debut.
In nine starts for the Nationals, Jordan was (1-3) with a 3.66 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 11 walks (1.92 BB/9) and 29 Ks (5.05 K/9) in 51 2/3 IP over which he was worth +0.7 fWAR. At that point he was shut down, having reached his innings limit in the first full year back following Tommy John surgery.
In a final assessment of Jordan's development over the course of the season, now-former Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson said he didn't think the 23-year-old starter, who turned 24 this winter, knew quite how talented a pitcher he really was right now.
"I don't think he knows how good his stuff is yet," Johnson said. "He relies a lot on the catcher about where to go to and he doesn't think about the count. Sometimes he goes to throw hard instead of just locate with that good sink."
"He's got a great arsenal," Johnson added. "I really like his weapons."
The Nationals' new skipper expressed the same opinion today when he spoke to reporters after naming Jordan as Friday afternoon's starter.
"I just think he needs to trust himself and trust his stuff, because it's good," Williams said. "It's really good stuff. His success, as [with] anybody's success, lies with the ability to throw the breaking ball for a strike and use his changeup effectively. That's everybody though. [Stephen Strasburg] is the same way. So is Doug Fister. So, it's the same with everybody. Fastball location. Breaking ball for a strike. Changeup off the fastball. Being able to throw it for a strike when you want to and not a strike when you want to. All of those things that everybody's said a million times [are] really true. And that comes from experience and trusting yourself and knowing yourself. But yeah, he has sped through the system and there's a reason for that: He's really good, a really good pitcher."
Jordan's competing for the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation. Luckily for him, the broken ankle he suffered this winter in a freak poolside accident hasn't hampered his preparation. "He's gone through everything that we've asked him to go through," Williams said. "No reports from the medical staff on any issues and he's participated in every drill at a really high effort level, so I don't see any problem with him."
Jordan appears to be past any issues with the ankle and the right-hander has impressed the Nats' manager.
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"The ball just comes out of his hand really nicely," Williams said. "For me, he's got mid-90's fastball and movement. Good changeup. Breaking ball for strikes. I've been really impressed with what I've seen. It's electric stuff out of the hand. So, I can't wait to see him in a game and get an opposition hitter in there and have some competition for him."
Williams said he would get back to reporters tomorrow as to which pitcher will take the mound on Saturday. "We're going to have Taylor Jordan go first game," he said. "And we'll stack it from there. He'll start for us first game and a couple of innings and we'll see how it goes."
While the Nationals may have to have starters piggyback in some games to get everyone work, Jordan is the only starter expected to go on Friday.
"I think that the first day, we'll just have [Jordan] and go with relievers after that," Williams explained. "Again, that can change in the next day or so, but that's the way it looks right now."
This is how Friday's lineup vs the Mets looks right now:
Williams acknowledged that the lineup was already out there, but didn't want to go into any more detail about his plans. "I don't want to get too far ahead," he said. "Call it the 'rookie manager paranoia' but I don't want to give you information that we may have to change something on."