Nationals' Reliever Search: Back To The Pen For Ross Detwiler?

Patrick Smith

Davey Johnson oversaw Ross Detwiler's growth between 2011-2013, but after an injury-filled season this year in D.C. will he wind up back in the bullpen in 2014? Nats' GM Mike Rizzo talked to MLB.com's Bill Ladson tonight about Detwiler's future...

While the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore's recent report quoting Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo saying Sammy Solis could potentially pitch out of the Nats' bullpen in 2014 has gotten a lot of headlines, and Rizzo's search for left-handed relief help has been well-publicized, there could be one other option if the team fails to find a reliever on the free agent or trade markets this winter.

MLB.com's Bill Ladson asked Rizzo in an interview posted Friday night if Ross Detwiler might eventually end up pitching out of the bullpen after an injury-shortened season in 2013 in which he missed time with an oblique injury and a disc injury in his back. Rizzo said Detwiler's situation was "unique":

"'Ross is a very unique situation. He pitched extremely well for us this year [before he injured his back]. I think he could bolster our bullpen and give us some depth as a starter.'"

Davey Johnson moved the now-27-year-old Detwiler into the rotation after taking over on the Nationals' bench in 2011 and guided him through a breakout +1.6 fWAR 2012 campaign which culminated in the '07 1st Round pick's strong start in Game 4 of the NLDS with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 33 games and 27 starts, Detwiler was (10-8) with a 3.40 ERA, a 4.04 FIP, 52 walks (2.85 BB/9) and 105 Ks (5.75 K/9) in 164 1/3 IP in which he held the opposition to a .241/.304/.377 line.

"'We certainly go four deep with a healthy [Ross] Detwiler. With the depth that we have in our young starting pitching, we could certainly fill from within.'" - Mike Rizzo on Nats' depth to CSNWashington.com's Mark Zuckerman

The left-hander made just 13 starts for Washington last season, however, going (2-7) with a 4.04 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 14 walks (1.77 BB/9) and 39 Ks (4.92 K/9) in 71 1/3 IP over which he was worth +0.9 fWAR in a season that started with him part of the Nationals' rotation for the first time in his six-year major league career. Opposing hitters had a .315/.356/.455 line against Detwiler last season.

As a reliever in 32 1/3 IP in the majors, Detwiler, the 6th overall pick of the '07 Draft, has a 1.11 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, 4.03 FIP, 15 walks (2.83 BB/9) and 23 Ks (5.34 K/9). Opposing hitters have a .171/.283/.255 line against the lefty when he pitches out of the pen. As a starter, Detwiler has a 4.02 ERA, a 4.08 FIP, 118 walks (2.83 BB/9) and 223 Ks (5.34 K/9) in 375 2/3 IP with opposing hitters posting a .271/.335/.414 line.

If Rizzo believes what he goes on to tell MLB.com's Mr. Ladson about the starting depth in the organization, naming Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Nathan Karns as starters who could help the team this season, and the Nationals do go out and sign or acquire another starter this winter, could Detwiler save the Nats the trouble and the cost in dollars or prospects of finding a reliever? Rizzo has, of course, talked about Detwiler as part of the rotation next season, as he did in a late September interview with reporters in Arizona.

Where is Ross Detwiler more valuable?

• Check out MLB.com's Bill Ladson's interview with Mike Rizzo through link below:

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