As shutdown approaches, Jordan staying focused

ATLANTA - It’s a good thing I looked at the weekend forecast for Atlanta before packing a bag last night. It’s most certainly not in the 90s down here, which is what I had expected.

It’s rainy and cool in Atlanta this morning, a sample of what it looks like we’re going to get through the entire weekend. I’ll take the temperatures in the 70s and upper 60s, but the rain could be an issue. This is the last time the Nationals are scheduled to visit Turner Field this season, so these two teams will do all they can to get these three games in without any postponements.

At some point in the next couple of weeks, Taylor Jordan will walk off the mound at the end of a start and be told that he’s done for the season.

Pitching in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Jordan is approaching his team-imposed innings limit, which is loosely set somewhere between 135-155 innings, according to manager Davey Johnson. Jordan has already thrown 136 innings between three levels this season (high Single-A, Double-A and the majors), so the shutdown could come as early as tonight, or the Nats could let Jordan keep going for another couple of starts, if they so choose.

Johnson has said the Nats will base the shutdown decision on how effective Jordan is and how he feels physically, although the team will also factor in the status of right-hander Ross Ohlendorf, who is making his second rehab start tonight as he tries to work back from right shoulder inflammation.

So how’s Jordan dealing with all the shutdown stuff? How is he handling the uncertainty of it all, not knowing how much longer he’ll be allowed to pitch before he moves into a cheerleading role?

“I’m really trying not to worry about it,” Jordan said. “Try to just keep on pitching ‘til they say stop.”

Jordan has been pretty impressive in his first stint in the big leagues, pitching to a 4.14 ERA over eight starts, with 26 strikeouts, eight walks and three home runs allowed in 45 2/3 major league innings. The 24-year-old has shown a hard two-seam fastball, a solid changeup and a slider that has improved significantly from the time he made his big league debut until now.

As if the move from Double-A to the majors wasn’t enough in and of itself, Jordan has also needed to deal with the physical aspect of working a full season. His most innings in a professional season prior to this year was 94 1/3 in 2011 before needing Tommy John, so the 130-plus inning range is uncharted waters for a guy who had major surgery just two years ago.

Luckily, Jordan’s got a couple guys in the Nats rotation in Stephen Stasburg and Jordan Zimmermann that have been through the same process and know all the obstacles that Jordan will have to face as he builds his innings up and works back towards full strength.

“I talked to Stephen, I asked him if he still had soreness when he was doing what I was doing,” Jordan said. “He was like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to have soreness.’ He said his arm still didn’t go straight (his first full year back after Tommy John). So I don’t know if he still is currently, but he said that he had been through tightness and soreness and stuff while he was progressing.”

Jordan was thrown into the fire this season, jumping to the big leagues after just nine appearances in Double-A, and the last six weeks have very much been a learning process for the right-hander. He’s had to handle a wealth of new information, and it’s starting to affect the way he pitches.

“I didn’t know necessarily the importance of what pitch to throw in what count to what batter,” Jordan said. “(You have to pitch) to the score, to the guy that’s running. I’m learning more stuff like that, just to fine-tune the game. It’s not as simple as just throwing the ball anymore. There’s more to worry about. ...

“It’s a big change. I went from Single-A to Double-A to here. Last year, I was in extended (spring training) then short-season (Single-A). So it’s a big change. I’m really lucky to have the opportunity to come up here. It’s been fun.”

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