VIERA, Fla. -- The battle for the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation will begin Friday as right-hander Taylor Jordan will get the start against the Mets. Pitching coach Steve McCatty gave him the news on Tuesday and Jordan was surprised. He is expected to pitch two innings.
"It's pretty cool that I'll be starting the first game considering it was more than I thought I was going to get," Jordan said. "I think it's going to be a good game. I'm just very excited."
The young right-hander is hoping he can start working on his slider on a more consistent basis. He acknowledged that he had tightness in his forearm because he started working on his slider too early in the spring.
"I kind of laid off [the slider] for a little bit. Tuesday was the first time I threw my slider in the bullpen and in live batting practice. It's a work in progress," Jordan said. "You can definitely see it. It's hit or miss right now."
Jordan is coming off his best season in professional baseball. On an innings limit after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011, he pitched a combined 142 innings in the Major and Minor Leagues, won 10 games and had a 1.96 ERA.
After being selected in the ninth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Jordan admitted he didn't follow the rules during his first couple of years in professional baseball. For example, if he had to do a running drill, he would cut it short or try to find a way to get out of it.
"I wasn't doing the right thing my first two years. I was kind of being a rebel and being young," Jordan said. "But then when you start going with the program and the system, my maturity starts kicking in. That's when I started to listen to them."
If one talks to Jordan, he seems to be a happy-go-lucky guy. Baseball is not the most important thing in his life. His girlfriend, Mandi Meil, is expecting a baby girl in July. He would like to name his daughter, Alexis.
"My life is great right now," Jordan said. "If I got sent down to the Minor Leagues, it's really not the end of the world. I just have to work harder to get [to the Major Leagues]. That's about it. I wasn't expected to be in the big leagues last year. Everything from here on out is just great."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.