Adon more confident attacking strike zone in first spring start

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Joan Adon is back at Nationals spring training competing for a spot in the major league rotation.

His locker in the clubhouse is next to the regular starters. He’s being stretched out as a starter. And he works out with the other starters.

Even so, there is hardly an expectation when the Nats break camp for the regular season that Adon will be on the flight to Cincinnati for Opening Day. But he’s still getting a fair shot at it.

Adon took a positive step forward in his camp with three shutout innings in the Nats’ 7-3 win over the Twins at Hammond Field.

After mixed results in his first two Grapefruit League appearances, both of which came out of the bullpen, the 25-year-old right-hander finally made his first start of the spring. He only gave up two hits and one walk while being efficient with his five-pitch mix, throwing 40 pitches, 27 for strikes.

“Obviously, a little emotional,” Adon said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez, after his outing. “That's what we prepared for, to come here and make that start. And now that I got the opportunity, I appreciate it.”

“Adon was really good,” said manager Davey Martinez. “He attacked the strike zone with his fastball. Breaking ball, when needed, was good. So it was a good day.”

Adon was happy to actually start a game as opposed to coming out of the bullpen. Even though the Nats try to simulate the outing as if it’s a start, it’s not the same as actually being the first pitcher in the game.

“It is a little different,” he said. “I've been pitching for several years as a starter. And in the bullpen, it's different. You just gotta prepare differently. You don't know how exactly to prepare. It's a process. But either way, I gotta come in and do my job.”

Adon has had his ups and downs as he’s been shuttled back and forth between the majors and Triple-A Rochester over the past two years. When he’s been good, he’s been able to slow the game down and pound the strike zone. When he’s been bad, he rushes and gets wild.

Today was a good one.

“That's one of the things I worked on a lot in the offseason is being able to have control over the game,” he said. “Because I'm the one with the baseball and I'm the one that is able to control the game. So definitely, I worked on that a lot.”

“Everything was a little bit slower today,” Davey Martinez said. “But he was definitely attacking the strike zone. Our plan was to get him to use his fastball more, get ahead and don't mess around and fall behind with breaking balls. He did well.”

Does he feel more confident in attacking the strike zone entering his third season on the fringe of the major leagues?

“Absolutely, yes,” he said. “Absolutely.”

* James Wood snapped an 0-for-10 streak that began on Monday’s game against the Cardinals with a 2-for-3 afternoon.

He singled to right in his first at-bat against Pablo López and then hit his first non-homer extra-base hit with a triple to left-center field in the sixth. He came around to score both times he got on base.

* Riley Adams recorded his third straight two-hit game with a double and bloop single.

Alex Call had two RBIs, driving in Adams after the double and scoring Wood with a sacrifice fly after his triple.

“Our situational hitting was really, really good,” said Davey Martinez. “We did some really good things today, getting guys over, getting them in. I saw some really, really positive things today.”

* Luis García Jr. was picked off at first after a leadoff single in the fifth, another mental mistake after the young infielder had a handful of them yesterday.

“That's dumb. I mean, it really is,” Davey Martinez said. “You shouldn't get picked off there. You know? So I'll talk to him about it tomorrow. It's no outs, we get to start our inning, he gets on base for us and then (he gets picked off). That can't happen. It can't. But like I said, we got to move on from those mistakes like that. That could take us out of, potentially, a big inning.”

But García came back in the bottom half of the inning to make a smooth, sliding, backhanded grab for an out at first.

* Jackson Rutledge also had a solid outing on the mound.

The former first-round pick started with two scoreless innings that included strikeouts of Kyle Farmer (sinker) and Carlos Correa (slider).

He struggled a bit in his third frame, however, giving up a walk and a single and hitting a batter. But he got out of the inning clean with a popout and two groundouts.

“Rutledge was good,” Davey Martinez said. “He got out of a tough jam, which I love to see. Limit the damage, but he came back and threw the ball really well.”

* Yohandy Morales singled off big league reliever Jay Jackson in his first at-bat. Last year’s second-round pick fell behind and battled back to hit an up-and-away fastball from the five-year veteran back up the middle.

Elijah Green drew a walk off major league reliever Jeff Brigham. He then moved up to second on Darren Baker’s single, tagged up and went to third on Nasim Nuñez’s fly ball to center and scored on Morales’ sac fly to center.

“That sac fly by Yoyo was awesome,” Davey Martinez said. “Great walk by Green. He left off some good pitches. … They all had good at-bats. They really did. Man, I keep saying it, I'll keep repeating myself over and over: I look at these kids and I see the future of our organization. We're heading in the right direction.”

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