Ross Detwiler's five scoreless against the Baltimore Orioles in his return to the rotation last week extended a streak of scoreless innings for the 26-year-old left-hander to 12.1 IP going back to a June 12th appearance in Toronto when he was still pitching out of the Nats' pen. Over that stretch the '07 1st Round pick has given up four hits and four walks while striking out eight. Detwiler was removed from the rotation in favor of Chien-Ming Wang after a May 25th outing against Atlanta in which the '07 1st Round pick gave up five hits, four walks and three runs in 4.1 IP over which he struck out five and threw an even 100 pitches. "I was a little disappointed in [Detwiler]," Davey Johnson told reporters after that game against the Braves.
"He didn't take charge and go right after them," the manager said, "He kind of messed around with them. I think he had about 100 pitches in four and a third or something. I like to go and give him every opportunity to get 5.0 [IP], but I was just getting a little frustrated with the fact that he wouldn't go right after them. He had good stuff today and [it was] a tough hook for me. He's a heck of a pitcher."
The Nats' skipper was trying to figure out what to do with the fifth spot in the rotation at the time and he acknowledged that what he'd seen from his left-handed sinkerballer, "... hadn't been vintage [Detwiler]."
"He just wasn't going after the hitters," the manager explained, "I mean, I think he was close to a hundred pitches and he had one out in the fifth. I certainly couldn't have gone past the fifth and it became to the point where I didn't want him to get beat-up tired." After that start against the Braves, the Nationals decided to put Chien-Ming Wang back in the rotation. In the bullpen, pitching coach Steve McCatty told the Washington Times' Amanda Comak they would work with Detwiler to get him to simply, "'... attack the zone,'" as he had done successfully before struggling in the starts that led up to his move to the pen.
In 13.1 IP as a reliever Detwiler posted a 1.35 ERA, 5.09 FIP, six walks (4.05 BB/9) and 10 K's (6.75 K/9). Chien-Ming Wang, who has struggled with his mechanics according to Nats' skipper Davey Johnson, faltered in his return to the rotation, giving up 26 hits, 13 runs, all earned, and 14 walks (7.13 BB/9) in four starts and 17.2 IP over which he struck out 10 (5.60 K/9) and posted a 6.62 ERA and a 6.91 FIP. After Wang gave up seven hits, three runs and five walks in 3.1 IP against Tampa Bay during the last homestand, Detwiler replaced him on the mound and threw 3.2 scoreless in relief, showing the agressiveness his manager and pitching coach were looking for when they sent him back to the bullpen.
"'He was dominating last night, very aggressive after the hitters,'" the Nationals' manager told the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore after the game, "'In his last two starts, he was pitching defensively, not attacking the hitters. So I think the stint in the bullpen, if anything, helped him.'" Johnson made the decision to once again move the 32-year-old Wang and his surgically-repaired shoulder back to the bullpen after that game. After holding the Orioles' hitters off the board in his return to the rotation, Detwiler told the Washington Post's James Wagner that he felt good on the mound, was able to get ahead of hitters early, but was ultimately dissapointed that he'd only gone five innings in a game the Nats eventually dropped to the O's.
Since he'd been pitching out of the pen for a month before the start, Detwiler wasn't going to go much longer anyway since his manager was being cautious with him. "Det pitched a gutty ballgame," Davey Johnson told reporters after the loss, "And he went to his maximum pitches. He gave us a good five innings and shut [the Orioles] out." Detwiler wasn't happy with the strike zone of home plate umpire David Rackley and the Nats' skipper said he agreed Det was getting squeezed, but admitted, "I'm prejudiced. But I thought he threw a lot of quality pitches and that he pitched a great game."
"I thought he was real aggressive, going after them," Johnson said. "He hadn't been really stretched out. I think he threw close to 80 pitches, but they were all quality and he did attack the hitters. I thought he was around the strike zone all the time, throwing good."
Detwiler returns to Atlanta for the first time since the start that led (along with considerations for Chien-Ming Wang) to his return to the bullpen. Detwiler will make his second start back in the rotation against the Braves tonight at 7:35 pm EDT. In his five-year major league career, Detwiler's (1-0) with a 3.80 ERA, 15 walks and 16 K's in 23.2 IP against Atlanta and he's got a 3.14 ERA, 11 walks and 11 K's in 14.1 IP at Turner Field.