In what was probably the second biggest game he's pitched in this year, or at least the second biggest stage he's pitched on, 26-year-old Washington Nationals' lefty Ross Detwiler threw 4.0 scoreless for Team USA last night in their 6-2 win over Italy in the World Baseball Classic. The Nats' '07 1st Round pick didn't start like he did in Game 4 of the NLDS with the St. Louis Cardinals this past October, on the biggest stage he pitched on this year, but he came on in relief of US starter Ryan Vogelson as planned and shut down the upstart Italians, allowing just one hit and a walk and striking out three in a 51-pitch, 36-strike appearance that allowed Team USA manager Joe Torre to rest his other pitchers for today's critical win-or-go-home matchup with Team Canada.
"That was our plan, we're going to use Detwiler to piggyback. I love the way [Detwiler] pitched," Torre told reporters after last night's game when asked about the left-hander's relief effort, "It would have been nice if he had about another eight or nine more pitches, because, again, our goal is to make sure these guys get the work they need so when we do return them to their clubs, that they're at the part of Spring Training they need to be. But he was great. But this was our plan and we were hoping for this result, obviously."
Detwiler was so excited about the outing that he kept the game ball, as he revealed on his own verified Twitter account (@NationalDet) after last night's game:
Great win for the team. Good time for my first ever save. Had to keep the game ball twitter.com/NationalDet/st…— Ross Detwiler (@NationalDet) March 10, 2013
Before this afternoon's WBC game against Canada, the Team USA and Nationals' starter stopped by for a quick interview with MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern, who were broadcasting live from Phoenix, Arizona's Chase Field, the site of the win-or-go-home Round 1 showdown. Bowden is, of course, the former Nationals' GM responsible (along with his scouts) for drafting Detwiler sixth overall in the 1st Round of the 2007 Draft, a fact Detwiler mentioned on Twitter:
"It all actually went pretty quick," Detwiler joked when he joined the MLB Network Radio hosts on the field at Chase Field this afternoon, "I'm not really sure what happened." In reality, however, Detwiler said, he took a really simple approach to the outing, coming in as he did after the team took a 6-2 lead on David Wright's game-changing grand slam. "Just trying to go out there and throw strikes," Detwiler explained, "I mean, we had a four-run lead, so, trying to get ahead on the hitter and put all the pressure on them."
Detwiler said his start in Game 4 of the NLDS with the Cardinals last October helped prepare him for the pressure of an outing like last night's. "It made me relax a little bit," Detwiler said of the experience, "I kept telling myself I've been through something like this before -- which I really haven't -- but I kind of tried to put it back on last year and do the same routine I did then."
Asked about staying in for four innings when he entered the game, Detwiler said rather matter-of-factly that he was informed he'd go the distance after his first inning of work. "Maddux just game up to me after the first one and said, 'We want you to finish it, we want to save the bullpen for tomorrow,'" Detwiler recounted. "So, you know, I knew things could happen, but I just wanted to stay focused and I tried to get my pitch count up. It's still Spring Training, [just] trying to lengthen my pitch count and get stronger every time out."
When it was pointed out by MLB Network Radio host Casey Stern that Detwiler just dropped US pitching coach Greg Maddux's name like it was nothing, the left-hander laughed. "It's unbelievable," Detwiler said of getting to work with the future Hall of Famer and 23-year MLB veteran. "Watching him, I mean everybody watched him and he's everybody's favorite pitcher growing up, and he was unbelievable out there. And just to learn from a guy like that and get to know his personality a little bit, it's really unbelievable, it's what you dream about when you're a kid."
After the World Baseball Classic, Detwiler will return to the nation's capital, and a team with a new attitude after they won the NL East last season. "It's great to be able to go out there and be on a team that's a winning team every day," Detwiler said, "We go out there and expect to win now and it wasn't always that way. And, you know, it's just a different feeling going out there knowing that we can win."
Before the regular season starts, however, there's work to be done in the WBC, and Detwiler said the US Team wants to win. "Everybody over here is a competitor," Detwiler said, "That's why they're here and that's why we're here. We're here to win. We're not just here to get work in and say, 'Oh, I played for a team.' We're here to win the whole thing, so it's huge for us to play a game like this today." Detwiler planned to be in the dugout to watch his teammates take on Canada, since he knew he wouldn't be pitching.
Four innings in, the game was tied at 2-2...