The day after his spot in the Nationals rotation became endangered, Ross Detwiler chose to ignore any thoughts about his place on the staff. “As soon as you start wondering about that [stuff], then it [messes] you up with everything else,” Detwiler said. “Stay away from it.”
Manager Davey Johnson, though, has left the question open. Johnson has evaluated whether to keep Detwiler as the fifth starter or move him to the bullpen and replace him in the rotation with Chien-Ming Wang. He expects a resolution to come Sunday.
“I thought about it,” Johnson said. “I’m still thinking about it.”
Johnson will handle both Detwiler and Wang like starters. They will both throw a side session Sunday, and neither will be available out of the bullpen until Wednesday, when the fifth starter will surface again in the rotation.
In the Nationals’ 7-4 win Friday night, Detwiler slogged through his fourth straight uneven start, throwing 100 pitches in 4 1/3 innings while allowing three runs on five hits and four walks. In his past four starts, Detwiler has allowed 16 earned runs in 20 1/3 innings. His starts have not been disasters, but the bar to remain in the rotation is set high with Wang’s return from a strained hamstring.
Wang relieved Detwiler and promptly let two inherited runners score with a first-pitch double by Matt Diaz. But he settled and ultimately retired eight of 11 batters, allowing a home run to Jason Heyward, too. His sinker frequently hit 94 mph.
“There’s a lot of factors you weigh any time you make a change in the starting rotation,” Johnson said. “You don’t just look at who’s going bad and giving somebody else an opportunity. You also look at how it would affect the bullpen, would you have to realign the bullpen. The rotation is pretty solid. I’m comfortable with the guys that I’ve got in there and Det’s been fine. He’s been more than fine.”
Both Wang and Detwiler are out of minor league options, and so they will both be part of the staff. Johnson may have to determine which pitcher fits better in the bullpen. Neither is ideal. Wang can only be used once every fifth day and takes a long time to warm up because of major shoulder surgery he underwent in 2009. Detwiler would serve precisely the same role as Tom Gorzelanny, a left-handed long reliever.
“I’ll make that decision probably tomorrow,” Johnson said. “I’ve weighed all those things and thought about them and I have had discussions with [pitching coach Steve McCatty]. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what needs to be done.”
Detwiler, meanwhile, moved on from his outing. He felt better about his performance last night than six days prior against the Orioles, when he allowed six runs in five innings on nine hits, including two homers. Friday, he struck out five, a sign that his stuff – a fastball that reached 95 mph and a sharp breaking ball – was there.
“Not much to change,” Detwiler said. “It was just not throwing strikes. I was missing by an inch here and an inch there. Pretty close. I don’t have any answers. I thought yesterday went a whole lot better than the two before that. I feel like I’m moving in the right direction. I can’t be too mad about anything like that.”
Detwiler did not have a chance to go for the win, leaving with one out in the fifth and two runners on base. Johnson said Detwiler was upset with leaving after 100 pitches, but Detwiler said Friday night, “he did what he had to do.”
“Det’s not throwing the ball as he’s capable of,” Johnson said today.
(It seems worth pointing out that Gio Gonzalez had a similar situation against the Reds earlier this month. Johnson let Gonzalez go for the win, and he escaped a fifth-inning jam with his 115th pitch. Then again, Gonzalez has been more consistent this year than Detwiler.)
Detwiler had not spoken to Johnson today. He said he did not watch video of the start, as is his custom. “I don’t think it does anything,” Detwiler said. “Obviously, I need to change something. So maybe I will start watching video.” Detwiler’s only run-scoring hit came on a groundball single, and he felt he was close to a solid start.
“Changeup was horse [manure] until the one to [Dan] Uggla,” Detwiler said. “It was just missing a little bit out. Missing a little bit in. It’s a step in the right direction because I was missing – who was it against? – the Orioles. I was missing in that game over the plate. At least this wasn’t over the plate where they could [really] crush it. It sucks throwing 100 pitches in four innings. But, at the same time, I wasn’t sitting there just giving it up, either.
“It’s a matter of getting back to the bottom of the knees instead of the top of the knees, where it’s a lot more hittable. Over however many starts I’m going to get, 30 or 35, three bad ones doesn’t seem terrible. Yesterday’s, obviously it’s not what you to do, but it wasn’t terrible. I came out with the lead. I didn’t go long enough to even get a win. That’s nothing to hang your hat on. We eventually won the game. It’s not all bad.”