One of the surprises coming out of Spring Training was the inclusion of Joan Adon in the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation.
With Joe Ross and Stephen Strasburg unavailable at the start of the season, the club had a decision to make when it came time to choose the 28 players for the Opening Day roster.
At the end of Spring Training, it came down to a decision between top pitching prospect Cade Cavalli and Adon, and in the end the Nats chose to go with Adon.
“I just think that Joan is further in his professional career,” GM Mike Rizzo explained when asked about the team’s decision-making process heading into the opener.
“He’s a little bit more polished and he’s had his — his feet were wet in the big leagues last year, and I think that had a lot to do with it.
“The command of his pitches is important to us, and just the fact that he’s pitched in the big leagues had a lot to do with it.”
Adon, 23, signed with Washington out of the Dominican Republic for $50K in July of 2016, and he made his MLB debut in the regular season finale last September, striking out nine of the 24 batters he faced, giving up six hits, three walks, and two earned runs in 5 1⁄3 innings.
The start came after he posted a 4.97 ERA in 17 starts and 87 innings at High-A, a 6.43 ERA in three starts and 14 IP at Double-A, and then struck out seven batters over four scoreless in his Triple-A debut, giving up two hits and three walks before he was called up to the big leagues.
“I like him,” manager Davey Martinez said before last night’s game, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. “His [velocity] was 95 his last outing.
“He’s another guy whose secondary pitches have to be in the zone. I’m looking forward to watching him pitch as well.”
Asked what he’d be watching for and wanted to see Adon do in his 2022 debut, Martinez said as always he wanted to see his starters throw strikes.
“Just, strike one, you know, getting ahead of hitters, and we’ll keep an eye on him,” Martinez told reporters. “A lot of it is based on his mechanics, make sure his mechanics are good. We’ll keep an eye on him. He’s another guy stretched out that could possibly go as long as he can, there’s no limitation on him either. We stretched him out to 95 pitches in Spring Training.”
The fifth-year skipper also talked about what he saw this spring that convinced him Adon was ready for the challenge of pitching in the majors every five days.
“One thing is, we always knew he had a good fastball,” Martinez said. “His fastball gets up on hitters. The thing that really helped him over the years, especially last year, is that he started using his breaking ball a little bit more, and very effectively, so that’s something that we’re going to look at today, that he can land his breaking ball for strikes, he can throw them for strikes, and if he’s doing that, his fastball is sneaky, it gets up on you, you know.
“And the other thing is too ... he’s very mature for a young kid, and he understands, and is always trying to get better, so I think he’s going to handle this very well, and like I said, like I tell him, it’s one pitch at a time, one day at time, so just focus on the next pitch every time you’re out there.”
Adon tossed four scoreless to start, on 61 pitches, but he ran into trouble in the fifth, giving up a leadoff single by Mets’ catcher James McCann, before he gave up his third free pass of the game in the next matchup, putting Brandon Nimmo on too, and after a wild pitch with one out moved both runners into scoring position, his fourth walk of the game loaded the bases in front of slugger Pete Alonso, who got up 2-0 and hit a 2-1 fastball to left field for a base-clearing grand slam which ended Adon’s outing, 4-0 NY.
“I was just trying to go locate the pitch outside, repeat the same pitch I threw to him the previous one, just I missed a little bit and it rain over the plate,” Adon said after the Nats’ third straight loss to start the season.
“Adon was cruising. I thought he was doing well, but the walks, the walks, and one swing of the bat, Alonso, and he fell behind,” Martinez said.
Adon threw 63% fastballs (93-95 MPH), and though he got just two swinging strikes with the pitch, and two with his slider, he got 12 called strikes with his four-seamer, and four with his slider, and his manager and pitching coach Jim Hickey saw something with his changeup to work on before his next outing.
“I thought his stuff was good,” Martinez said.
“I thought his stuff was good. We’ve seen something in his changeup that Hickey is going to work with, so the bullpen session we’ll get him — he started dropping his arm a little bit on his changeup, so we’ll try to get him to repeat the same thing as he does with his fastball, but he’s got to use that pitch, he really has to use that pitch, that’s a good pitch for him, so, but we’ll get him throwing — it wasn’t effective today, just because he was kind of pushing it.”
“It’s always been a good pitch for me,” Adon said of his change. “I feel like I’m throwing it well, it’s just I’m missing out of the zone with it. It’s doing what I want it to do with the movement, it’s just I need to locate and present it better to the hitters so that they’re actually swinging at it instead of taking those pitches.”
His fastball is the key though, and Martinez liked how he was throwing it.
“When he’s good, he’s fastball heavy. He throws his fastball, it’s late, it’s explosive, and we always say, it kind of gets on hitters fairly quickly and you can see that, so we like that, but the thing is he went fastball/curveball, fastball/curveball, so we got to get him to trust his changeup a little bit more.”