Washington Nationals' Pitching Staff Changes Make Sense, Open Options

By Brian Skinnell
Ross Detwiler Nats
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

According to Pete Kerzel of MASN, the Washington Nationals will send Ross Detwiler to the bullpen for the 2014 season and start either Taylor Jordan or Tanner Roark in the fifth spot. Kerzel reported the news as told to him by manager Matt Williams.

At the beginning of Spring Training, Detwiler was the front-runner for the position based on past performances. He started off the spring strong, but it became apparent that Detwiler could only hold up for 2-3 innings at a time. As soon as they bumped up his Spring Training workload, he started to have problems.

Moving Detwiler to the bullpen makes sense. It gives them another left-hander to call on and he can either make a short relief appearance or give them a couple solid innings. In the event that a starting pitcher needs to miss a start, they can always call on him. On the chance that they have to play a double-header, they now have someone who can start in the first or second game already on the major league club.

Now Jordan and Roark will be battling it out and both bring different weapons to the fight. Jordan has nasty stuff, but Roark has better control and mound presence. In nine starts in 2013, Jordan went 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA. In each outing, he gave up at least four hits. Roark, however, went 3-1 over five starts in September with a 1.74 ERA. In four of those five starts, he pitched at least six innings.

This spring, Roark has held the better stat line. In eight innings spanning three outings, he has a 4.50 ERA and with two home runs given up. For Jordan, he’s pitched 10 innings over four games and holds a 6.34 ERA with 13 strikeouts, but he has given up 16 hits. When it comes to Spring Training stats, however, it’s important to remember that pitchers are often working on things they struggle with, so stats and numbers can be misleading.

When you look beyond the statistics and dive into how versatile each pitcher is, you can give the advantage to Roark. He’s pitched out of the bullpen before, so he could always go back. If at any point during the season the Nationals want to flip Roark for Detwiler, it’s an easy thing to do. Jordan is a bona fide starter, so the switch wouldn’t be as easy.

While it’s a tough decision, it’s a great one to have on your hands. The Nationals had three good pitchers battling for the final spot in their rotation, and they’ve now cut it down to two. Sending Detwiler to the bullpen is a move that I certainly agree with as it adds a solid left-hander. Both Roark and Jordan are more than capable of being starters in MLB, so Washington is in good hands either way.

For that last spot, I give the advantage to Roark due to past performances, his versatility, his control and mound presence. However, that spot is still wide open, and it should be interesting watching both pitchers battle it out on the mound for the rest of Spring Training.

Brian Skinnell is a freelance sports writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.

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