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Jordan impresses, now Nats must decide 5th starter

Mar 24, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

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JUPITER, Fla. — Taylor Jordan handed the ball to Matt Williams with two outs in the bottom of the sixth and walked back to the first base dugout. And with that came the official conclusion of the evaluation phase of the Nationals’ No. 5 starter spring competition.

Now comes the hardest part: Making the decision between Jordan and Tanner Roark.

“They both have pitched really well,” Williams said. “What are you gonna do? They both have answered the bell every time we’ve asked them to.”

Jordan had the final opportunity today to make one last impression on Williams, pitching coach Steve McCatty and the Nationals front office, and he did nothing to hurt his chances. The right-hander allowed just one run to the Marlins over 5 2/3 innings, carrying a shutout into the sixth before Giancarlo Stanton got to him for an RBI double.

It was a strong finish to a solid spring for Jordan, who wound up posting a 3.92 ERA in six games (four starts), allowing 24 hits in 20 2/3 innings but notching 20 strikeouts to only two walks. More than the numbers, the 25-year-old was mostly pleased that he proved himself healthy after he broke his right ankle in a freak October accident.

“Honestly, I’m really pleased that I came back this strong after I broke my ankle this offseason,” he said. “I’m extremely pleased that I’m as healthy as I am right now.”

Jordan entered the spring in a three-way competition with Roark and Ross Detwiler, who figured to have the leg up given his experience. But when the Nationals decided to move Detwiler to their bullpen last week, the choice was narrowed to Jordan or Roark.

Neither right-hander significantly distinguished himself from the other, with Roark (3.29) besting Jordan’s ERA but conceding the strikeout-to-walk rate (11-to-3).

Both pitchers have insisted all along they weren’t consumed with the competition aspect of this camp, and both have gone out of their way to compliment the other.

“I have to do the best I can,” Jordan said. “If he does great, then great for him. He’s worked hard his whole life. Who am I to wish negatively on him?”

There isn’t much to distinguish one from the other, but there are subtle factors. Jordan has better pure “stuff,” but Roark was better as a rookie last summer (7-1, 1.51 ERA). Roark has shown he’s versatile enough to pitch out of the rotation or bullpen. Jordan notes he has never spent a day above Class AA.

“I’m happy to go to Triple-A,” Jordan said. “It’s still a bump up for me. I’ve never even been to Triple-A. Last year was just a blessing to be up in the big leagues.”

And there are other, outside factors the Nationals must consider. Will Doug Fister, who missed three weeks with elbow inflammation, be ready to start the season on-time? If so, will he be able to go more than five innings and negate the need for a long reliever? Can Roark better help the Nationals out of the bullpen than the rotation?

Williams, McCatty, general manager Mike Rizzo and others will meet in the next day or two, debate each pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses and make a decision. To hear them talk about it, this is legitimately a tough one.

“As of now,” Williams said, “my mind is not made up.”

 

  1. natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 5:21 PM

    Taylor Jordan making the decision even harder and that’s what you hope he would do. From the sounds of things on the radio, the Marlins were topping those sinkers into the dirt all afternoon. 2 mistake pitches and neither really cost him. That K of Giancarlo Stanton was the highlight with a man on 3rd and 1 out.

  2. jimmydavis125 - Mar 24, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    Sounds like a wonderful problem we have on our hands.

    To think, it was still just a few short years ago that we were watching back-to-back 100-loss teams. This Rizzo guy – not bad. Not bad at all.

    • Section 222 - Mar 24, 2014 at 5:46 PM

      And we were watching the likes of J.D. Martin, Jason Simatacci, Matt Chico, and Mike Bacsik on the bump. And that’s just a sample.

      • natinalsgo - Mar 24, 2014 at 5:59 PM

        222, and nobody threw a meatball better than Bascik just ask Barry Bonds.

      • Section 222 - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:02 PM

        Gotta hand it to the guy. When Tim Redding and Garret Mock (yes, I can come up with many more), he’ll still be famous for that.

    • snerdblurter - Mar 24, 2014 at 5:48 PM

      Sure as hell beats debating between Collin Ballester and Jason Bergmann

    • sjberke - Mar 24, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      Yep, it sure was a turning point in Nats history when they replaced Bozo the Clown with Mandrake the Magician. (And that could have happened 2 1/2 years before it did if Bozo hadn’t talked Mark Lerner into sticking with him in the fall of 2006). Think what you will of Stan Kasten, we owe him a debt for bringing Mandrake from Arizona. (And maybe one to ‘Smiley Gonzalez’ for forcing the Lerners to–finally–let Bozo go.

  3. Greg f - Mar 24, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    Competition is a wonderful thing.

  4. sjm308 - Mar 24, 2014 at 6:58 PM

    I am still thinking the smart thing to do is place Fister on the dl and bring both youngsters up. I forget when this would allow Fister to throw a pitch in a real game but I think he might only miss one start, two at the most. This would give both guys a chance to once again show their stuff and also allow an extra bullpen arm to come north as well.

    Chris Young is now an afterthought and I just hope Rizzo can work some sort of magic and get at least a prospect or two for him. I was wondering why teams wouldn’t wait that out and then just take him off the waiver wire but I read that it might jack the price up if several teams are bidding and by making a trade with Washington, they can control the price for Mr. Young. Makes sense to me. Guessing there is no way he takes a minor league deal. I am wondering if Gonzalez would?

    Go Nats!!

    • Section 222 - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:05 PM

      I counted out yesterday that if they put Fister on the DL backdated to March 28 (the last ST game he’ll pitch), he could be brought back to pitch in April 12, which happens to be the date that the loser of the Roark/Jordan competition would be slated to make his second start. Pretty nice timing if my calculation is correct.

      • tcostant - Mar 25, 2014 at 9:56 AM

        This what they may do, as I saw this Tweet from Mark:

        Looks like Doug Fister’s next start will actually be in minor league game Thursday. Jordan Zimmermann starting that day vs Mets.

        Since this a MINOR league spring game Thursday, they can back date a DL stint to last Saturday (his lass Major League Game) and he can come off the DL to pitch Sunday the 6th.

      • Section 222 - Mar 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        Excellent. Or he can come off later if needed. Putting them on the DL lets them bring Jordan/Roark north, or use the spot for an additional bench player for some period of time. I like it.

  5. David Proctor - Mar 24, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    Chris Cotillo ‏@ChrisCotillo now
    #WhiteSox have informed Adrian Nieto that he has made the Opening Day roster, according to his agent @JoshuaKusnick

    • nats128 - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:41 PM

      This will be interesting to see if he lasts there the entire season!

  6. scnatsfan - Mar 24, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    Hate that about nieto but he has to stay all year

  7. momhw - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:15 PM

    One thing I’ve wondered about Jordan is perfectly shown in the picture above – by extending his arm so far back with the ball in his hand like it is, I would think eventually a batter or onlookers would pick up his grip and be more ready for the pitch. I thought pitchers wanted to hide the ball as much as possible to disguise the grip and what type of pitch was coming.

    • David Proctor - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:39 PM

      Lefties will always hit him better than righties because of that

    • Doc - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      Detroit did in his ST game against him. The Detroit announcers were even talking about it.

    • Doc - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      Detroit did in his ST game against him. The Detroit announcers were even talking about it.

  8. veejh - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:18 PM

    Flip a coin, at this point.

  9. Sonny G 10 - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    I’ll be glad when all this is settled and we know who we got going north.

  10. scnatsfan - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    Snyder released. No surprise.

  11. Steady Eddie - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    Reposted from this morning’s thread:

    OT — for those suggesting that Fister should start the season on the DL, it’s totally unnecessary. Because of the two days on April 1 and 7, we can start Strasburg on normal rest (after Roark) against the Barves on April 5, and in Fister’s place in the rotation against the Fish on April 10. That lets Fister take his normal spot in the rotation against Atlanta on Sunday April 13, and gives us Roark/Stras/Gio vs Barves the first time, and Gio/Zimm/Fister the second time.

    I imagine the FO would prefer to do that instead of yo-yoing TJ up for maybe 2 starts and then back down to Cuse. And probably would make it easier psychologically for Det to take than seeing both TJ and Roark start, but not him.

  12. kirbs3256 - Mar 25, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    These are the best problems in baseball to have. I think Roark will get it based on track record last year….but who knows. What a great problem to have.

  13. rabbit433 - Mar 25, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    I was watching John Lannon pitch for the Mets and thought it wasn’t too long ago he was our number one starter. What a nice position we’re in!

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