Mike Rizzo: Nationals' Ross Detwiler "Probably Leads The Parade For Our Fifth Starter."

Patrick Smith

Washington Nationals' lefty Ross Detwiler is the leading candidate for the fifth spot in the 2014 rotation, according to both Mike Rizzo and Steve McCatty, but he'll have to earn it in Spring Training. Can Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan or Nathan Karns beat him out?

A few days after he acquired Doug Fister in an early December deal with the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked about which pitchers would battle it out for the fifth spot in the Nats' rotation in Spring Training in an interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

"I know everybody brought the question up, 'Who's going to be no.5?' If Det comes back healthy, he's going to do well." - Steve McCatty on the MLB Network, Dec 2013

"[Ross] Detwiler, when healthy, is a very capable major league starting pitcher," Rizzo said. "He is going to go out there in Spring Training and compete with [Tanner] Roark and Taylor Jordan, Nathan Karns, Sam Solis and then the next wave of minor league players coming up."

But if he's healthy, Detwiler, 27, the Nats' 2007 1st Round pick who missed time with oblique and disc issues in his back last season after a breakthrough campaign in 2012, is the front-runner for the fifth spot behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Fister in what, on paper, is a fairly strong starting rotation, with what the Nationals see as several capable options behind the top five.

Nationals' pitching coach Steve McCatty offered his take on the battle for the final spot in the rotation last month in an appearance on the MLB Network's Hot Stove Show with Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds.

"I know everybody brought the question up, 'Who's going to be no.5?'" McCatty asked rhetorically. "If Det comes back healthy, he's going to do well. He always has great Spring Trainings. But I'm real happy. I think that my chances are good every day. When you have good pitchers, you have a chance to be a good pitching coach."

"Detwiler probably leads the parade for our fifth starter position and opportunity, but Tanner Roark pitched extremely well last year. Taylor Jordan showed flashes..." - Mike Rizzo on ESPN980, Jan 2014

Rizzo was asked about the Nationals' rotation again this afternoon during an appearance on ESPN980's The Sports Fix with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, and he continued to talk about Detwiler as the front runner for the fifth spot while also talking about not just the quantity but the quality of the other contenders.

"We've always had a lot of candidates for the rotation jobs," Rizzo said. "These are quality candidates that can impact the ballclub. Detwiler probably leads the parade for our fifth starter position and opportunity, but Tanner Roark pitched extremely well last year. Taylor Jordan showed flashes of being an extremely successful major league pitcher. Nathan Karns threw the ball well in spurts last year in a very limited look. And we've got our next wave of minor league prospects that have a chance to impact the roster.

"We have extremely good depth at starting pitching," Rizzo continued, "which is... really could be the first time that we've said that and it's quality depth and we're looking for those guys to all perform well and whatever fits the team best will go north and make the club."

It won't be long now before the pitchers themselves end the speculation by reporting to Viera, Florida and sorting it out. Nationals' pitchers and catchers report on February 13th.

Listen to Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo on The Sports Fix with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro HERE.

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