Ross Detwiler strong after long WBC layoff

Jonathan Newton/TWP

Jonathan Newton/TWP

The last time Ross Detwiler climbed onto a mound in a game was eight days ago, and the Nationals wanted to ease him back into regular work upon his return from the World Baseball Classic. But the left-hander felt so strong and sharp that after four innings and 57 pitches in a 12-10 win over the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland on Sunday afternoon, he went to the bullpen to throw. After 15 pitches, he wanted to keep going but pitching coach Steve McCatty stopped him.

“He said, ‘I’m just feeling good,’” Manager Davey Johnson said. “Well, keep it that way.”

Detwiler returned to the Nationals on Saturday from the WBC and a day later was thrown into the fire, facing a nearly complete Tigers lineup that featured sluggers Torii Hunter, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. He withstood the test, allowing a lone run on a towering home run by Hunter. He induced six groundouts, five after that first inning.

“The only ball I threw down in that first inning was to Torii Hunter and I don’t think he missed it so I was just going out there trying to throw strikes, trying to get ahead,” Detwiler said. “I think when I did get ahead I was effective and those balls were hit hard when I was behind, except for the hanging curveball in the first.”

He added later about the Tigers lineup: “You’ve got to focus on keeping the ball down or you’re going to have throw with an L screen out there.”

The most promising development by Detwiler wasn’t his strong outing after such a long layoff but his ability to throw his change-up, long a work in progress, for strikes. He said he has fiddled with grips and found a good one, and worked to ensure that he was throwing it the same manner as his fastball. Johnson has pushed Detwiler, even since last season, to throw more off-speed pitches to complement his standout fastball.

“I thought I threw some good change-ups, which I’ve never done in my professional career,” Detwiler said. “It was good to see some swings and misses, and to see all the hard work paying off.”

Detwiler is scheduled to make two more starts remaining in spring training and hopes to get stretched out to 75 pitches the next outing and 90 in the final one.

>>> Tyler Clippard allowed his first hit and walk of the spring but got a flyout and strikeout to preserve a scoreless eighth  He has now thrown six scoreless innings this spring. “He’s been throwing the heck out of the ball,” Johnson said.

>>> Ryan Perry had another shaky outing, allowing five runs on two hits and walked two hitters over over an inning-plus. He faced five batters in the sixth inning without notching an out. His spring ERA over 9 2/3 innings ballooned to 10.24. With cuts looming on Monday, he could be a likely candidate for minor league camp to continue the transition from reliever to starter he began last season.

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