Joan Adon, 23, threw a 95 MPH four-seam fastball for 50 of his 94 pitches in his MLB debut (53%), getting two swinging strikes and 12 called strikes with his heater, which hit a high of 97.3 MPH, and he mixed in a slider (37%), which he recorded ten swinging and a total of six called strikes with, while throwing a changeup six times, three called strikes, and his sinker, which he used just once.
Adon, who signed for $50K out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2016, started out at High-A in the Nationals’ system this season, and made jumps to Double-A Harrisburg and then to the club’s top affiliate, Triple-A Rochester, before he was called up to start the season finale against the Boston Red Sox, who were fighting to hold onto an AL Wild Card spot. It was really a good test for the right-hander, and he made a strong impression.
“Adon came in and was lights out,” manager Davey Martinez said after Adon went 5 1⁄3 and gave up six hits, two walks, and three earned runs, striking out nine of 24 Red Sox’ hitters.
Joan Adon, Filthy 84mph Breaking Ball. pic.twitter.com/RkQujBuf6Z— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 3, 2021
“He pitched really well, so that’s encouraging. And I loved his attitude, I love the way he came in and did his thing today, so it was good.”
“His last outing was really, really good, in Triple-A,” Martinez said, “and I was hoping that he gives us five-plus innings, and he did that. At the end, he did get a little bit tired, but you’ve got to understand, it was his first time, big crowd, but he looked great and he didn’t let the crowd affect him, he went out there and did his thing, and his stuff was really, really good, so ... I’m looking forward to him coming to Spring Training, getting ready, and see where he’s at next year.”
For Adon, just the opportunity was a big deal, and to put together a solid outing was a great way to end the season.
“Very excited and very, obviously, emotional,” Adon said, through team interpreter Octavio Martinez after what ended up a 7-5 loss to the Sox.
“You dream all the time of getting an opportunity to come up and play at this level,” he said, “and whether it’s the final game or not, I always told my teammates that if the opportunity came up where I got the chance to play, it doesn’t matter. I wanted to play ... even if it’s the last game of the season at the big league level.”
Adon made a strong impression on the fans in the nation’s capital, who gave him an ovation when he left the mound in the sixth, and he also impressed his catcher, Alex Avila, who was behind the plate for his final game before retiring.
“From the get-go [Adon] had ice in his veins really,” the 13-year veteran said. “We spoke briefly prior to the game just to get a feel for what he does, and talking to [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey who had spoken with the guys that have seen him in the minor leagues pitch, just so that I have an idea going out there. And he seemed really confident, really calm, and you can always kind of tell a little bit too how the bullpen goes prior to the game, and his bullpen was great. And he seemed very comfortable, and he took that right into the game, and early on we ran into some trouble with guys on base, and he just beared down and made his pitches, and he looked fantastic, had tremendous poise all game.”
Joan Adon, Dirty 83mph Breaking Ball.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 3, 2021
8th K thru 4. pic.twitter.com/ypvAyOmIc8
Getting to work with a veteran like Avila in his MLB debut meant a lot to Adon.
“I felt great,” he said. “Especially throwing to a veteran guy like him who has played a lot of baseball and had a great career. Especially on his last day, his last game of his glorious career, and I was just [following], whatever he was going to call I was going to follow, because someone like him has got a lot of experience, he’s faced those kind of hitters before, the Red Sox, and I was just going to follow whatever he put down.”
Getting to end his campaign on a high note, Adon said, is also a powerful motivator going into 2022, a season that should offer plenty of opportunities for players knocking at the door in the Nationals’ system.
“It obviously gives me a lot of motivation to keep working hard,” Adon said, “keep working hard in the offseason, and get ready for next season and hopefully start the year with the team up here at the big league level.”
Where will his focus be this winter and next spring?
“The one pitch I do want to work on a lot in the offseason is my changeup,” he explained. “I thought that throughout the season I lost the feel for the changeup at times, so I definitely want to work hard at developing that pitch better and more consistent and come back with a better feel for it.”