By David Driver
Used with permission
July 4, 2013
WASHINGTON — Taylor Jordan sat in front of his locker in the spacious Washington Nationals clubhouse, wearing white baseball pants, a red shirt and a Nationals hat.
He was checking his phone messages nearly three hours before game time Tuesday, sitting in the cubicle beside major league veteran and fellow pitcher Ross Detwiler and key reserve Steve Lombardozzi.
The right-hander was a long way from his Merritt Island roots, both in terms of geography and baseball environment.
While not invited to major league camp in spring training, Jordan began the season at high Single-A Potomac, went 7-0 with a 0.83 ERA in nine games (eight starts) for Double-A Harrisburg and then on Saturday made his major league debut, starting on the road against the New York Mets for Washington.
“I overdid my goal by a lot,” said Jordan, 24, a former standout at Brevard Community College who also played at Indian River CC. “I was hoping to get a September call-up. I ended up getting here before the All-Star break. It is way over what I thought would happen this year.”
The magical ride is slated to continue today, when Jordan will make his first home start, facing the last-place Milwaukee Brewers in the nation’s capital in an 11:05 a.m. start.
But after that, it may be back to the minors for Jordan. Washington manager Davey Johnson said Tuesday that veteran right-hander Dan Haren is on track to come off the DL and start July 8 or 9.
“I made it here doing the stuff I am doing,” said Jordan, who is staying at a hotel for now. “I am not going to slack off. If I stay, I stay.”
Jordan allowed three runs (just one earned) in 41⁄3 innings while getting the loss against the Mets.
Washington centerfielder Denard Span, who grew up in Tampa, said Jordan came up and introduced himself before Saturday’s game. But it was not that Jordan was star-gazing — he was hungry.
“We pointed him in the direction of the cafeteria,” said Span, with a smile.
On the mound Jordan did not appear to be fazed by his Big Apple surroundings.
“He looked calm. I could not tell he was making his first start,” Span said. “He was not even in big league spring training. He has a lot of promise.”
Jordan became the third pitcher promoted from Double-A Harrisburg — and skipping Triple-A Syracuse — to the Nationals this season. Nathan Karns made three starts for Washington before being sent down to Harrisburg, while reliever Ian Krol has an ERA of 1.42 after his 11th big league outing Tuesday in a 4-0 loss to the Brewers.
“He uses his changeup very well,” Krol said.
Jordan began this season as the No. 17 prospect in the Washington system, according to MLB.com. He was drafted in the ninth round in 2009.
“I got (the debut) out of the way. My nerves are out the door now. I am starting to get comfortable here now,” he said.
Jordan said pitching in New York did not faze him. “It is all new to me. It doesn’t matter if it was away or home,” said Jordan, who left 20 tickets for family and friends, including his parents, at the Saturday game.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander said veteran Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche told him he may have been tipping his pitches against the Mets.
“It is good advice for me since I am starting. Hitters are going to see me a lot,” he said. “I am going to test it out (today).”
And he will do it featuring a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider and circle change.
“You have to work both sides of the plate. If you mix it up, they don’t know what is coming,” he said of big league hitters.
Johnson said on the Nationals’ radio network that Jordan asked him for a game ball prior to facing the Mets. The skipper got a laugh out of that and told Jordan to go ask pitching coach Steve McCatty.
Jordan said it is a dream come true to make the majors with the team that trains in Viera, not far from his home.
“It is definitely a lot easier to go to spring training. I just have to drive there. I just go back to my house” after workouts, he said.