The Washington Nationals were dealt their first loss of the spring yesterday, falling 4-2 to the New York Yankees. The loss of course is of no real importance, though the game did mark the fifth starter competition officially starting. Ross Detwiler, the front-runner for the spot, started the game, and Tanner Roark, another candidate for the spot, was brought into the game as well. All eyes will be on Detwiler this spring, as he is supposedly fully recovered from back surgery and is looking to prove he isn’t just a swing man.
Detwiler’s start Monday was nothing short of a tale of two innings. He had a strong first inning but fizzled out a bit in the second inning. Detwiler’s first inning went like this: a strikeout looking, a ground out to short and another strikeout looking. Detwiler had good velocity throughout his start, topping out at 95 MPH, worked quickly and also showed signs of a really good curveball. Detwiler throwing a curveball is encouraging because he has become something of a one trick pony as he tends to throw his fastball a lot. However, the belief is that with a fully healthy back, Detwiler should be able to finish on his curveball which was an issue in 2013.
Detwiler continued to show good velocity and worked pretty quickly in his second inning, aside from the fact that he allowed a lot of hits. When a pitcher throws their fastball as much as Detwiler does, they will allow hits, and that’s exactly what Detwiler did. The first three hitters to face Detwiler in the second reached base via hit, and the fourth batter reached on a Zach Walters error that cost the Nationals an extra run. Eventually, Detwiler did get an out, and after 1.1 innings, Matt Williams came out and pulled him after a 36 pitch outing.
There were plenty of reasons to be encouraged by how Detwiler pitched, and of course it’s his first spring start so there is very little reason to panic. Detwiler mixed speeds nicely, worked pretty quickly and showed glimpses of a more complete repertoire that we could see some more of in more of his starts as they stretch him out. All in all, Detwiler’s spring debut gave us a microcosm of who he is as a pitcher: He can be very dominant at times but can also get hit very hard when he falls back to throwing nothing but his fastball. However, if Detwiler mixes his pitches and changes speeds, he could be one of the most dominant fifth starters in baseball.