While his box score wasn’t that great, Ross Detwiler’s first Spring Training outing for the Washington Nationals showed why he will be a pleasant surprise this year in the fifth starter spot.
Detwiler went 1.1 innings and gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits with three strikeouts. He started off the game well, pitching a 1-2-3 bottom of the first. Then the heart of the New York Yankees’ order gave him some trouble as they registered four runs before he could record an out.
Last year, Detwiler was a 90-percent fastball pitcher. While he has proven to be effective with that mindset in the past, he may want to start mixing his pitches. Against the Yankees, they jumped all over his fastball and tore him apart.
One thing New York did have trouble with was Detwiler’s curveball. Two of Detwiler’s three strikeouts came on the curveball. It has a big break right at the end of it, and he has solid control over its location. It’s almost coming 10 mph slower than his fastball, so it’s quite a change of pace as well. In 2013, former manager Davey Johnson wanted Detwiler to mix up his pitches more, but his ailing back didn’t allow him to be effective and it ultimately shut him down.
Whenever Detwiler mixed in a curveball against the Yankees, he gave the opposing hitters troubles. In his lone recorded out in the second inning, a lot of that can be accredited to his use of the curveball. He was able to keep them off balance and it certainly gave him the advantage.
Since there is a battle for the fifth pitching spot, people tend to assume that it will be the weakest part of the rotation. However, if your rotation also consists of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, it’s hard to find a fifth pitcher that is just as strong. However, they may have found a diamond in the rough in Detwiler.
If Detwiler can mix his pitches and continue to use his nasty curveball, him being the weakest link is quite a compliment to the other four. He gave New York’s finest fits when he got creative, and there’s no reason why he can’t do that this year. Detwiler may have had an off year last season, but he looks to be in good shape for this coming season.
As long as he stays healthy and continues to mix his pitches, he’ll elevate his game to the next level. It will also give the Nationals a near-flawless rotation. Just because he’ll be the fifth starter, doesn’t mean he’s one to sleep on. Ross Detwiler will be a pleasant surprise for the Nationals in 2014.