Wednesday afternoon, Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty broke the good news to Ross Detwiler. Detwiler would be moving back into the Nationals’ rotation as Chien-Ming Wang moved to the bullpen to work out a flaw in his mechanics. McCatty left Detwiler with one thought: “Be aggressive.”
As Wang scuffled with his delivery once he returned to the rotation, Detwiler used his time in the bullpen to recapture his aggression on the mound. “It kind of reset everything,” Detwiler said.
In his final start before the Nationals moved him to the bullpen, Detwiler needed 100 pitches to last 4 1/3 innings, walking four batters and constantly falling behind in counts. Out of the bullpen, Detwiler allowed two runs in 13 1/3 innings while walking six. He used an efficient 14.9 pitches per inning. .
“You can’t go out there and get a feel for anything,” Detwiler said. “You’re forced to go out there and throw strikes.”
Detwiler has toggled between the rotation and the bullpen since 2010. He spent the end of spring training growing accustomed to the bullpen, only for the Nationals to chose him over John Lannan for the fifth starter spot.
“It’s really just getting stretched out,” Detwiler said. “I really haven’t hit any walls. We’ll see.”
Detwiler threw only 48 pitches in his last appearance, when he retired 11 of 12 Rays he faced Tuesday. But he expects he will be able to muster enough arm strength and stamina to pitch deep into his next start, Sunday in Baltimore.
“I did it out of spring training and I was good to go,” Detwiler said. “So why not again, right?”
As Detwiler moves back on the career track he expected, Wang will try to sort through his struggles. Wang has allowed 40 base runners in 17 1/3 innings over four starts, the results of a rushed delivery, which caused him to lower his arm slot and lose the trademark sink on his fastball.
“He’s rushing out a lot,” McCatty said. “His arm is a little lower. It was a little mechanical. I could see more of a mental thing. Now it’s rushing more as he’s putting more pressure on himself. He was rushing out there. It’s getting a little worse, so we’re just going to put him back in the ‘pen and try to get him back where he should be.”
Wang pitches under a withering spotlight in Taiwan, his home country, and he also feels compelled to produce for the Nationals, a franchise that waited – and paid him more than $3 million – as he missed a season and a half recovering from shoulder surgery.
“He’s putting so much pressure on himself to do well,” McCatty said. “He wants to be perfect. He’s a very prideful man. He’s putting a lot of extra pressure on himself to do well.”
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