The Washington Nationals have had their other left handed starting pitcher invited to participate for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Ross Detwiler will join Gio Gonzalez on the Team USA roster.
For Detwiler and Gonzalez, pitching in the WBC is an honor. For fans of the Nationals it will be a time for worry. Though both will not have their spring training routine affected too much, each will be expected to pitch in meaningful games before opening day. Team USA will go into the tournament trying to win. Everyone on the roster, including pitchers, will be asked to give their best. This means that, if called upon, Detwiler and Gonzalez will have to pitch competitively before their arms are ready.
Detwiler was asked to pitch in the WBC early this week by Team USA manager Joe Torre. After talking it over with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson, he decided that it was too good of an opportunity to pass on. Detwiler pitched for Team USA in the 2006 classic and has fond memories of the occasion.
The WBC has rules in place for pitchers. They are only allowed to throw a certain number of pitches, games and must have a few days down time between appearances. This is to protect them from injury or wear and tear before the season starts. Torre will make sure that his pitchers are not overworked. Gonzalez will not report to Team USA for the first round and will only pitch if they advance to the second. Detwiler will probably throw less than Gonzalez.
However, if and when both men take the mound, they will be in real games against real batters. The number of pitches that they throw may be secondary to the intensity of the throws. The WBC may be looked upon as being every bit as important as the MLB postseason. If Detwiler and Gonzalez throw the same way in March that they did last October in the NL Divisional Series, a ton of things could go wrong.
The risk in having Detwiler and Gonzalez pitch in the WBC is that they are Washington’s only left-handed starters. With John Lannan now a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Nationals have no other left-handers to fall back on. Even the bullpen is thin of lefties. If anything happens to Detwiler or Gonzalez, Washington will have to find someone outside of the organization to take their place.
Nationals’ fans were already bracing to hold their breath when Gonzalez pitched in the WBC. Now, they will have to hold it even longer when Detwiler takes the mound.
They are the only southpaw’s Washington has and the Nationals can not afford to lose either one.