VIERA, Fla. - If you happened to watch last night's Nationals-Astros game, you might have noticed a stunningly good-looking, well-put-together man handling the sideline reporting.
Not that I'm trying to put any words in your mouth or anything.
Yes, I've been asked by MASN to pick up the sideline reporting duties for Nats games, and I've happily accepted. This is a tremendous opportunity and I'm really excited about getting to work closer with our great production team. I will continue to write for MASNsports.com and run the blog, so no need to worry about missing me here. I'll just have a little extra on my plate for the time being, which is totally fine by me.
Outside of that little update and Stephen Strasburg being named the Nationals' opening day starter, there were, of course, other takeaways from last night that are worth discussing. A few of them center around right-hander Taylor Jordan, who worked five strong innings, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out five as he continues to try to win the final spot in the Nats rotation.
Jordan had a weird first inning, which featured two hits, a walk and a throwing error (charged to Jordan after he sent an attempted pickoff throw into center field when trying to cut down Jose Altuve on a stolen base attempt), but he really turned things around after that. The Astros only got one ball out of the infield from the second inning on, as Jordan's sinker started working and he started mixing in his changeup.
It represented a nice in-game turnaround by the 24-year-old righty, who has still made just 18 regular season appearances above high Single-A.
"It's gonna happen at some point in the season where you meet some adversity, but he handled it good," manager Matt Williams said. "Shows he's maturing."
Jordan's slider is a solid secondary pitch and he's seeing his changeup come along as spring gets deeper, but the Nationals don't want him to stray too far from his bread-and-butter - a hard sinker. And so that's what Jordan tried to lean on last night.
"I was definitely focusing on my fastball command today, more than my off-speed," Jordan said. "Because that's just the type of pitcher I am. I'm a sinkerball, groundball type of pitcher. I'm not a strikeout machine, or whatever. I had some good movement on my fastball today. That was nice to see."
It was also nice for the Nationals to see Ross Detwiler come in and work a scoreless inning in relief, his first appearance out of the bullpen this spring.
Detwiler has been told that he'll work as a reliever to begin the year, and his spring debut in that role was a good one. He worked a scoreless sixth inning, walking one and striking out one.
"We got a chance to get him in there against three straight lefties, which was good," Williams said. "He was aggressive, he threw two breaking balls for outs, one for a strikeout, one for a groundout. But the secret to his success there is his fastball in the zone. I saw aggression. That's what I like. That's what he likes. He looked good."
Williams isn't sure yet what type of role Detwiler will settle into in the bullpen, but he really feels like the lefty can be a weapon there. He mentioned the Pirates' Justin Wilson as a possible comparison - another big southpaw that works in relief, and one that posted a 2.08 ERA in 58 games last year.
It will be interesting to see how the Nats handle Detwiler the rest of spring as they try to get him experience in a number of situations. These next nine days could be a nice trial-run in that regard.
"We'd like to get him in a situation where he's potentially in the middle of an inning and then he finishes the next," Williams said. "That would be a stepping stone for him. Back-to-back (games), not necessarily for him. We'll see how it ends up. It may be a back-to-back where he's coming in and facing one guy and then coming back (and pitching) the next day."
Rafael Soriano worked a clean inning in relief last night, and so did Ross Ohlendorf, making his first Grapefruit League appearance since suffering back spasms on March 6. Ohlendorf's fastball looked like it had good life, and Williams said he was impressed with what he saw from the right-hander.
One final note: FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reported late last night that reliever Luis Ayala, who was granted his unconditional release by the Nats yesterday, already has multiple offers from other teams, including the Orioles. We'll see where Ayala ends up.
Here's today's quote of the day, written atop the morning schedule sheet: "The secret to scoring a lot of runs is getting guys into scoring position as many times as you can."