Ross Detwiler makes final start before leaving for the World Baseball Classic

(David J. Phillip / AP)

(David J. Phillip / AP)

The next time Ross Detwiler climbs a mound, it will be in Arizona, far away in both location and climate from the conditions he found himself in this afternoon. As he looked in for his first sign in the Nationals’ Grapefruit League game vs. the Cardinals, Detwiler’s jersey flapped in the chilly wind, and he had to brush dirt out of his eye to see.

“It wasn’t cold as much as it was windy,” Detwiler said. “It could happen during the season, so it’s a good little tuneup.”

Detwiler braved the wind and a high pitch count in his final start before departing for the Team USA and the World Baseball Classic. He will leave tomorrow morning and is scheduled to make his first appearance March 9, in relief of Giants right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.

“I think it’s for a good cause, but you never want to leave teammates behind,” Detwiler said. “But it will be a lot of fun. I’m pretty excited about going and being able to represent my country.”

Detwiler will be limited to 65 pitches per appearance in the WBC, “which is nothing for him,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said. Detwiler arrived in Viera for spring training in late January, but he reiterated that he won’t take any chances while pitching in a competitive setting this early in the year.

“There’s only one goal in mind,” Detwiler said. “Obviously, you don’t want any injuries or anything. The overall goal is to win the World Series. Gold would be nice. But we have a lot of work to do here.”

Today, Detwiler continued to use his off-speed pitches early in counts, one of his main goals this year. The Cardinals scored one run off him on four hits, but they rarely made solid contact – only a single from leadoff man Shane Robinson could considered a line drive. Detwiler needed 51 pitches, largely because he worked deep counts as he struck out four batters, including three in a row, all swinging, in the first inning.

“I think the wind was kind of making my ball move a little bit,” Detwiler said. “I would have rather had the early contact than the swings and misses. We got through it. It was good. The solid contact wasn’t there.”

Detwiler has been focusing on throwing more curveballs and change-ups this spring after he relied heavily on his sinker last season. “I think I threw more off-speed pitches in two innings today than I did all year last year,” Detwiler said. Catcher Kurt Suzuki “said he’s a little surprised that it’s actually pretty decent, because I didn’t throw it at all last year.”

>>> The Nationals won, 7-6, when rookie Zach Walters rolled a one-out, walk-off single through the right side of the Cardinals’ drawn-in infield. “That’s a monkey off my back, to feel like I’ve done something right in front of Davey,” Walters said. “I’ve been calling him the Warden, because everywhere I turn when I feel like I’ve taken the wrong step, he is right there with his hawk eyes. But, no, I’m just glad we won that one.”

>>> Ryan Mattheus continued his strong start to spring training. He struck out two Cardinals in a 1-2-3 ninth. His work has come at the end of games, almost entirely against minor leaguers and reserves. But Mattheus has seven strikeouts and no walks in four innings, allowing just one hit.

>>> Another ho-hum day for Bryce Harper. He lashed a single to right field and reached on a check-swing roller to third base, giving him two more hits. He’s 9 for 16 this spring, good for a .563 batting average.

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