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Justin Lord leaping to Double-A level for Washington Nationals

Alabama native and Florida State product will be the pitching coach for Double-A Harrisburg after spending time at Instructional League with top draft picks …

Akron Aeros Vs. Harrisburg Senators 8-18-2011

WASHINGTON – Justin Lord, 42, was a pitcher in the minors from 2001-08, and has been an instructor for several seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.

But this coming season will be a first for the Alabama native and Florida State product – he will be the pitching coach at the Double-A level for the Harrisburg Senators in the Nationals’ system.

He was the pitching coach last season for Single-Wilmington in Delaware and worked with some of the top young arms in the system, including Cade Cavalli, Jackson Rutledge, Cole Henry, Matt Cronin, and Holden Powell.

“I am excited about it. I am very happy about the opportunity to go to Harrisburg,” Lord told Federal Baseball from his home in Georgia.

“I would assume I would have some of the guys I had last year in Wilmington, some guys I am very familiar with. Just to see them compete at a different level … the higher you go, the hitters get better and you can’t make as many mistakes. Hopefully, you can stay ahead of those hitters by one step,” he added.

Lord pitched in the minors for Kansas City and Pittsburgh but never above the Single-A level.

He was the pitching coach for Single-A Frederick in the Baltimore system in 2019 – but has never coached above that level.

“I am excited because you are going to have some older guys and some younger guys who have some bright futures as well,” said Lord, who has never been to the City Island field in Harrisburg. “It is going to be a fun level. It is my first time coaching or playing in a Double-A league.”

Last fall, Lord was part of the coaching staff in West Palm Beach for the Instructional League.

“It was good – we did a lot of things with the pitchers that I thought was very productive,” he said. “We got to see several of the new guys from the 2021 draft and work with those guys in bullpens and see them in intrasquad” games.

The top three pitchers drafted by the Nationals last year were lefty Dusty Saenz (fourth round), lefty Michael Kirian (sixth), and righty Cole Quintanilla, who went in the ninth round.

All three of them were at Instructional League, Lord noted.

Saenz, from Texas A & M, pitched in the Florida Complex League and for low Single-A Fredericksburg last season.

Kirian, drafted out of Louisville, pitched in seven total games in 2021 and also split time between Florida and the Virginia team.

A University of Texas product, Quintanilla had an ERA of 3.86 in six games out of the bullpen in his first pro season, also splitting time between the Florida Complex League with manager Jake Lowery and for Fredericksburg with Mario Lisson, who also managed in the Arizona Fall League last season.

“We really did some things from a pitch development standpoint, mechanical-type analysis, breaking down deliveries, that sort of thing,” Lord said of the time at Instructional League. “It was good to see these guys where they are and where we see them advancing to. We may make some adjustments here and there but it was working hand-in-hand with all of the pitching departments and strength and conditioning. I think we have a good thing coming with them.”

“It was about three weeks long; we got to see several of those drafted guys. We didn’t play a lot of games so really it was a lot of time in the bullpen,” he added. “Not to single any of those guys out, but all of those guys have good qualities, good frames, and good bodies and a lot to work with.”

Off the field this winter, Lord enjoyed woodworking and hunting once he got back home to Georgia after being in Florida last fall.

“I got really busy with that around Christmas. It is not as busy as it was in December,” he said of woodworking in January.

Lord also checks in on pitchers in the minor league system of the Nationals.

“I have a list of guys I stay in touch with at least once a month,” he said.