NEW YORK - Taylor Jordan arrived to Citi Field this morning with the crowd of Nationals players and staffers that were on the second bus departing the team hotel.
The tall, baby-faced right-hander walked into the visitors’ clubhouse with a smile stretching from ear-to-ear, dropped off his bags and tossed on a brand new, red Nationals warm-up shirt.
He shook the hands of a few people milling around the clubhouse, met up with pitching coach Steve McCatty and then turned the corner to head to manager Davey Johnson’s office.
That giant smile never left his face.
Jordan will make his major league debut today, throwing on a No. 38 jersey and getting the start for the Nationals against the Mets in the second game of this three-game set. The 24-year-old right-hander hadn’t pitched above low Single-A Hagerstown prior to this season, but he’s moved incredibly quickly this year, going from high Single-A Potomac (2-1 with a 1.24 ERA in six starts) to Double-A Harrisburg (0.83 ERA in nine games) to the majors.
“(Today) was the first time I met him,” said Johnson, who didn’t see Jordan in spring because the righty was in minor league spring training. “I said, ‘Relax and talk to McCatty and he’ll keep it real simple.’ McCatty won’t try and confuse him.”
This will be the first regular season major league appearance for Jordan, but he got a little taste of what it’s like facing big league hitters when he got a split-squad start against the Cardinals back in spring. Jordan went just 2 1/3 innings that day, allowing nine runs (seven earned) and 10 hits.
It was a rough afternoon for Jordan that day, despite the experience, but Johnson knows one thing for sure coming into this outing.
“If he locates that sinker, keeps it down, that works in any league,” Johnson said.
Jordan has three pitches: a fastball, slider and changeup. The Brevard Community College product doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he throws all three pitches from the same release point, making it tough for hitters to get a read on what’s coming. Scouts also say he has a deceptive delivery, something else that works in his favor.
Over all his years of managing, Johnson has seen quite a few pitchers get their start in the majors. He knows that Jordan isn’t thinking big picture coming into this outing, just that he wants to show that he can get the job done on the game’s biggest stage.
“What they want, all the youth, is an opportunity,” Johnson said. “And they got here. And now they want to compete. It’s called peer pressure. They want to perform and show they belong here. I’ve had a lot of young ones, and they prove in a very short time they belong here. I always like seeing them go out and compete.
“I’ve had some awful good ones make their debut. Start of the season, half-way into the season. It’s nice that we’re here (in New York) where I broke in a lot of young guys. It’s a good atmosphere.
“(Jordan’s) got a nice pitcher’s frame. Tall, lanky. I’m anxious to see him. I know he’s got a slider to go with (the sinking fastball, and) a changeup. I’m just interested to see how he does. It’ll be fun.”