3/19/2014 11:42 P.M. ET
Jordan focuses on fastball command in solid start
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Taylor Jordan, who is being considered for the fifth spot in the rotation, was solid in a 2-0 loss to the Astros on Wednesday night.
He lasted five innings, allowed one run and struck out five. The run came in the first inning. With one out, Jose Altuve reached base on an infield single, then he stole second before going to third on a throwing error by Jordan. Altuve then scored on a groundout by Jason Castro.
Manager Matt Williams noticed that Jordan was more aggressive with his fastball than he was in his last start against the Tigers. In that start, Jordan relied heavily on his breaking balls and allowed four runs in three innings.
"I was definitely focusing on my fastball command today more than my offspeed because that's the type of pitcher I am," Jordan said. "I'm a sinker-ball, ground-ball pitcher. I'm not a strikeout machine or whatever. So I had some good movement on my fastball today. That was nice to see."
Jordan said he is not thinking about competing with right-handers Chris Young and Tanner Roark for the fifth spot in the rotation. He talked about spending Tuesday's off day at home, collecting himself and relaxing.
"I just had a great day and did not stress and that's exactly what I did. I'm just not worried about [the rotation]," Jordan said.
Jordan said this spring has been stressful because he didn't know if he was going to be ready for Spring Training after breaking his right ankle this offseason. He hurt his ankle in a freak accident while coming out of a swimming pool and was in a cast for a month.
"I broke it in October and I had to really hurry up my rehab, my lifting and throwing," Jordan said. "I had to be on top of it this offseason. My ankle feels as good as new."
Shifted to bullpen role, Detwiler moving forward
VIERA, Fla. -- Two days after he was told that he was starting the season in the bullpen, Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler didn't show any emotions with the media Wednesday.
"I've still got to go out there, pitch and get outs," Detwiler said. "I can't really dwell on the negatives. I take as much positives as you can and go out and prove that you can get outs."
Detwiler does not necessarily have a defined role, according to manager Matt Williams. Detwiler could be a long man, a lefty specialist or could pitch an inning or two.
"They haven't told me exactly my role is going to be. That's one thing we'll address once they tell me exactly where I fit in," Detwiler said.
Asked if he saw his new role as a demotion, he said, "I don't know. I have no comment on that."
Detwiler hasn't had much success this spring as a starter, allowing five runs in seven innings, while opposing hitters had a .412 batting average against him.
"I'm healthy. I thought I was throwing the ball well. That's kind of for you guys to decide how I'm doing," he said.
Detwiler considers himself a starter, but he is not hoping that someone gets hurt for him to allow him rejoin the rotation.
"We are in it to win. It's going to hurt worse if we don't win the whole thing," Detwiler said.
In Wednesday's 2-0 loss to the Astros, Detwiler entered the game in the sixth inning and didn't allow a run.
"We got him in there against three straight lefties, which was good," Williams said. "He was aggressive. He threw breaking balls for outs -- one for a strikeout, one for a groundout. The secret to his success there is his fastball is in the zone. I saw aggression. That's what I like. That's what he likes.
"[Pitching in] back-to-back [games] is not necessary at this point. We'll see how it ends up. It may be a back-to-back where he is coming in and facing one guy and come back the next day. I wouldn't necessarily think he was going to go back-to-back innings at this point."
Veteran reliever Ayala released
VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals gave reliever Luis Ayala his unconditional release Wednesday. Ayala struggled this spring, allowing nine runs in six innings. Furthermore, opposing hitters had a .370 batting average against him.
"I want to keep playing. … I want to have a chance to play with another team," Ayala said. "I thank the Nationals for the opportunity, but it happens."
Ayala signed a Minor League deal with Washington in February. Ayala became the second player from the 2005 squad to reunite with the organization, following Jamey Carroll, who signed a Minor League deal a month earlier.
Ayala played with the Nats/Expos from 2003-08, and he was one of the team's most reliable relievers. Over the past three years, Ayala played for the Yankees, Orioles and Braves and recorded a respectable 2.58 ERA.
Manager Matt Williams believes Ayala can still pitch in the big leagues.
"He is a veteran guy that knows how to pitch," Williams said. "I don't think Luis, if you ask him, would say he [lights up] the radar gun, but he knows how to get people out. We want to give him an opportunity to see what's out there."
Reliever Barrett impressing Williams
VIERA, Fla. -- With less than two weeks left in Spring Training, right-hander Aaron Barrett is still with the Nationals -- and for good reason. He has pitched eight scoreless innings and held opponents to a .148 batting average.
"Every situation we have put him in, he has performed and that's all you can ask," manager Matt Williams said. "I think he has been aggressive. I think he has commanded the strike zone. He has had quick innings and has worked well."
Barrett said he is keeping a simple approach. Last season, Barrett pitched for Double-A Harrisburg and had a 2.15 ERA with 26 saves.
"I'm just trying to keep a simple mindset, just using the one pitch at a time mentality. It's kind of the thing I've been focusing on the last couple of years," Barrett said. "Ultimately, for me, I control what I can control. Outside of that, whatever happens, happens. I'm just trying to keep that simple mindset and attacking hitters."
Williams is familiar with Barrett, having managed the righty in the Arizona Fall League in 2012. Williams noticed the reliever's fastball is much better than it was then.
"He has a great breaking ball, he is aggressive and commands the zone," the manager said. "So far, it's been really nice to see."
• Starter Doug Fister will pitch three innings against the Marlins on Saturday afternoon. The last time he pitched in a Grapefruit League game was March 2. The right-hander has missed more than two weeks of Major League action due to elbow inflammation.
• Reliever Ryan Mattheus is expected to pitch in his first Spring Training game Thursday. He has missed most of the spring with chest inflammation.
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.