Washington Nationals' left-hander Ross Detwiler made two Grapefruit League starts in Florida before leaving to join Team USA in Phoenix, Arizona this week. He'll be the second pitcher to take the mound tonight for the US, taking over when San Francisco Giants' right-hander Ryan Vogelsong is done. In Florida, Detwiler, the 26-year-old, '07 Nats' 1st Round pick, gave up nine hits and three runs in 4.2 IP in which he struck out six, facing a stacked Atlanta Braves' lineup in his first outing and the St. Louis Cardinals he beat in Game 4 of last season's NLDS in his second start.
Detwiler's coming off a breakout season in D.C. in 2012 with the NL East Champs. He won a spot in the rotation last Spring and after making room for Chien-Ming Wang to attempt another comeback, reclaimed it, finishing out the year as part of one of the Nationals' rotation along with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson.
Detwiler finished 2012 (10-8) with a 3.40 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 52 walks (2.85 BB/9) and 105 Ks (5.75 K/9) in 33 games, 27 starts and 164.1 IP. On the biggest stage he's ever seen, in Game 4 of the NLDS, with the Nationals facing elimination, the Nationals' left-hander held the Cardinals to three hits, three walks and one unearned run in 6.0 IP of a game Jayson Werth eventually won with a walk-off blast.
"I was so proud of [Detwiler]," Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters after Game 4, "He pitched. He didn't start the game overthrowing. He pitched. He used his -- in crucial spots, he used his changeup for a good strike. Used his curveball. Went in and out. He was just totally in control against a good-hitting ballclub. It was great. Fun watching." Early this Spring, the Nationals' manager praised Detwiler, who, he said, really learned how to pitch toward the end of the 2012 campaign.
"Det really started learning how to pitch maybe the last three outings," Johnson explained, "I mean, he has such a good fastball, and he's stubborn as a mule, but he could get guys out with just his fastball. I mean, a 93-4 mph sinker, well-located, and he pitched in good, but he found out that if he used some of his other pitches, his curve ball and his breaking ball, it would be a little easier."
Detwiler told reporters he was happy to face a tough Braves' lineup early this Spring, since it was good preparation for what lies ahead in the WBC. "You saw the lineup they put out there today," Detwiler said, "I could have been embarrassed pretty easily. I think this helped me out a lot, seeing a lot of their top guys. It makes you focus on keeping the ball down, because every one of them can hit the ball a mile."
"It's going to be a short road until I'm in the WBC," Detwiler said, "So I'm pretty happy to face those hitters."
The lineup he'll face from Italy tonight is probably not as imposing as the Upton brothers, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and the Braves, but the Mike Piazza-led WBC team from Italy has already beaten Mexico and Canada this week and the US could use a win after losing to Mexico last night. 9:00 pm EST for Game 2 for the US Team in the WBC. Who's going to miss Ross Detwiler on the international stage? Go Det Go!!