While he did struggle over 12 starts, and though he was optioned out to Triple-A Rochester, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said Joan Adon, 23, handled it all fairly well in his first extended stretch of outings in the majors.
“He’s good, I mean, he’s working, he works hard,” Martinez said. “He’s out there with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey, in-between starts, and working on different things. We changed some things in his mechanics that he feels a lot better. He’s throwing more consistent strikes at times.”
“Today was just one of those days,” Martinez continued, after Adon gave up eight runs on seven hits (two of them home runs, one a grand slam by Jazz Chisholm, Jr. in the first, and the other a two-run shot by Marlins’ catcher Nick Fortes) in a three-inning, 58-pitch outing on the road in Miami.
“He fell behind,” Martinez explained, “and when he got 3-0 to Chisholm, he had to throw a strike, and Chisholm beat him right there, so he’s just got to keep working, and we tell him all the time, the one thing I talked to him a little bit ago is a changeup.
“He didn’t throw any changeups today, and he needs to mix that in. We talk about it a lot, but he needs to start throwing his changeups more, and he hasn’t done it.”
If they continued stressing with Adon the need to throw his changeup more often, why didn’t he throw it?
“I talked to him and he just doesn’t feel like he can throw it where he wants to,” Martinez told reporters, “and I said, ‘You don’t have to throw it really where you want to, you just got throw it down. It’s a good pitch for you.’ We see him working on it in the bullpen and it’s a good pitch, so he’s just got to learn how to throw it. He’s really got to go out there and use all three of his pitches.”
In his final start before he was optioned to Triple-A, Adon was a two-pitch pitcher with one of the two ineffective. He threw 40 fastballs (69%) and 18 curves (31%) on the night.
“As a hitter,” Martinez continued, “... when you can eliminate a pitch because they know you’re not going to throw it, and all of a sudden you’ve got a fastball and you’ve got a curveball, and your curveball is not really that effective like it was tonight, you know, he threw some curveballs — but one he left up for the home run, and a few others ones he threw short, so the changeup is another pitch that he can use.”
Adon finished the night with a 6.95 ERA in 12 starts and 55 2⁄3 IP on the year, and was sent to Rochester shortly afterwards.
“At this point, we want him to understand and work on some things without the pressure of going out there [every] five days and competing up here,” Martinez explained. “But we want him to go down and work on some things. We had a great conversation yesterday, all positive. I mean, this kid’s going to come back here. He’s going to help us win games. His stuff is electric. He’s just got to learn how to use it, and use it effectively. So, but he’s such a great kid, and he understood what we’re trying to do, and honestly, for me it’s part of the process.
“And we explained that to him, he’s not the first one that’s been in the big leagues and had to get sent down.
“Sometimes when they come back up they’re ready to go, so we’re hoping that’s the case with him.”
The message on the way out, and goals for Adon with the club’s top minor league affiliate?
“He’s going to go down there, we wanted to send him down yesterday so he can fit in the rotation every five days down there,” Martinez said, “and then work on his changeup, work on throwing his fastball and location, work on his breaking ball and throwing it for strikes, throw strike one, so everything — he’s learned so much. From what he told us he learned about his body, his mechanics, and how to utilize everything, how to stay calm in high-leverage situations, so now it’s just getting him down there and getting him to relax a little bit and using all his tools.
“But like I said, this kid’s got a bright future with our organization. We love him, he works hard, so I can’t wait till he gets back up here and has a second go-around.”
Getting 12 starts in while the Nationals dealt with injuries in their rotation, and now getting a chance to apply what he learned as he hones his craft at Triple-A is not the worst outcome a pitcher can have. Martinez said he was happy to get an extended look at Adon in the majors while he was up.
“For me, you can’t evaluate a kid if he’s only here for 4-5 starts. We gave him 12 starts, and honestly, this was kind of like by design, this is something that we talked about in Spring Training that might happen, but I think it’s important he understands he’s done nothing wrong. Take away the results. He’s a young kid that’s learned.
“Unfortunately, this is a results-driven business, and he understands that, too. It’s his job to go out there and get better, and come back up and be ready to go again.”
In his first start at Triple-A Rochester this season, Adon gave up four hits, three walks, and three runs, striking out five in two innings ... in which he threw 62 pitches.