Taylor Jordan starts strong in Nats’ spring training opener

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — It would have been easy for Taylor Jordan to take the mound Friday at Tradition Field, knowing he had the first opportunity of any pitcher battling for a spot on the Nationals roster this spring, and get caught up more in trying to impress decision-makers than simply pitch well.

The second-year right-hander, though, recognized from the beginning that wouldn’t help his cause at all, so his focus was in the right place in his Grapefruit League debut.

“I’m not going to push for something that’s not capable out of me,” he said. “I try to stay within myself. I don’t try to put too much pressure on myself. I just went out there trying to throw strikes. I wasn’t trying to throw a no-hitter or something.”

Two scoreless innings were more than a satisfactory first step for Jordan, who impressed during his brief time on the mound during the Nationals’ 5-4 exhibition win over the Mets.

Jordan was particularly efficient (16 of 21 pitches for strikes) and commanded his entire repertoire within the strike zone. Most notable: He recorded two strikeouts, each on changeups that fooled Mets hitters Ike Davis and Wilmer Flores.

“It helps a lot,” Jordan said of his effective changeup. “That’s the equalizer to my fastball. That changeup that just drops straight down, the change of speeds with it, it just complements my fastball.”

Jordan is one of three guys in the mix for the final spot in the Nationals’ Opening Day rotation and perhaps has been overlooked a bit compared to Ross Detwiler and Tanner Roark. The 25-year-old, though, showed what he’s capable of during his rookie season and returns this spring with that experience under his belt.

And with a strong performance to get his spring started, Jordan made his first statement toward securing a roster spot one month from now.

“Command of all three (pitches),” manager Matt Williams said. “Threw the ball well. More of the same that we’ve seen so far this spring. Aggressive within the strike zone and went after it.”

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