Ross Detwiler gave up just one unearned run in six innings in Game 4 of the NLDS against St. Louis last Fall. The then-26-year-old, '07 1st Round pick threw 104 pitches, 59 for strikes in Nationals Park that night, holding the Cardinals to three hits and three bases on balls with the only run the result of a leadoff walk, an error on Ian Desmond at short and a sac fly by the Cards' Carlos Beltran. The game was eventually decided on Jayson Werth's ninth inning walk-off home run with the Nats' 2-1 win forcing the teams to play a deciding Game 5 the next night in the nation's capital.
"He was just totally in control against a good-hitting ballclub," Davey Johnson said, "It was great. Fun watching."
"[The] media can say whatever they want," Werth said when asked about articles lamenting Stephen Strasburg's absence from the postseason. "We know the type of guy Ross is and what he brings to the team."
In the first Spring Training in which he knew he was part of the starting rotation, Detwiler, who turned 27 in March, made four starts, giving up 20 hits and six runs in 16.0 IP in which he walked just two and K'd nine. He also traveled to Arizona to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, throwing four scoreless in a win over Italy.
Joe Torre, the U.S. Manager, was impressed with what he saw. "I love the way [Detwiler] pitched," Torre said of the 51-pitch, 36-strike effort, and though he would had preferred the left-hander had gotten more work in, he thought the Nats' lefty, "... was great." Detwiler's final Grapefruit League outing took place on March 27th in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium.
Saturday in Great American Ballpark, Detwiler held the same Cincinnati team that put 15 runs up in the first game of three for the Nats on the road in Ohio, to one unearned run scored on a double by Todd Frazier that drove Brandon Phillips in after the Reds' infielder reached on the first of two errors Ian Desmond committed in the Nationals' 7-5 win. Detwiler threw 82 pitches total, 50 of them strikes against the Reds. The 6'3'' left-hander split the 14 pitches he threw in the first evenly between four-seamers and sinkers that sat between 91 and 93 mph.
Two of the 13 pitches in the Reds' second were sliders, both at 78 mph, along with six four-seam fastballs and five sinkers, all between 91 and 93 mph. Detwiler threw one slider in a nine-pitch third, mixed two sliders and a change (at 84 mph) in among the 23 pitches he threw in the fourth, went strictly sinker/four-seam in an 11-pitch 5th and gave up a single on an 0-2 pitch to Zack Cozart on the only slider he threw among his final twelve pitches in a quick sixth. Detwiler was done after that. The Nationals took a 5-1 lead one pitch into the seventh when Jayson Werth took a first-pitch fastball from Sam LeCure to center for a solo home run. Though he received no decision when Washington blew the lead in the ninth, Detwiler impressed his manager in his six innings of work.
"It was outstanding," Johnson told reporters after the Nationals' win. "Long layoff. He stayed within himself. Made great pitches. Awful good fastball again, and got some good hitters off-balance. It was great." The Nationals' manager has championed Detwiler over the last few seasons, sure of what the Nats' starter could accomplish if given the chance. He is, however, also brutally honest. Though Detwiler did manage to draw a walk on Saturday he was 0 for 2 at the plate, and he's now 5 for 92 over the course of his major league career with a bat in his hands. In a conversation about his pitchers' skills at the plate last week, Johnson said that though the right-handed hitting pitcher's swing is getting better, "Detwiler is awful," as a hitter.
Provided he remains in the rotation all season, the Nats' lefty will have plenty of opportunities to work on that this summer.