Washington Nationals' pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Thursday (2/13) as the 2014 season gets underway. The Nats have assembled the strongest collection of starting pitchers they've had in Spring Training.
The majority of them will be battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, however, since barring any injuries, hiccups or setbacks, etc., Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister will be filling the first four spots in the rotation. As lefty Ross Detwiler, the leading candidate for the fifth spot, told reporters at NatsFest last month, he thinks the starters the Nationals have assembled can go toe-to-toe with any rotation in baseball.
"The first four, the top four, we can go up against any rotation, anywhere," the Nats' left-hander said. Will he be the fifth? Here are all the starters who will be in camp with the Nationals...
Nationals' Rotation Candidates:
• Ross Detwiler: 6'5'', LHP - 2013 Stats - (2-7), 13 G, 13 GS, 71.1 IP, 4.04 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 5 HRs (0.63 HR/9), 14 BB (1.77 BB/9), 39 Ks (4.92 K/9). +0.9 fWAR - Coming off an injury-plagued campaign in which he battled oblique and disc issues in his back, Detwiler, the 27-year-old, '07 1st Round pick will be competing for a spot in the Nationals' rotation after a breakthrough 2012 campaign in D.C. which ended with a strong showing in the biggest start of his career in Game 4 of the NLDS with St. Louis.
In his last full season in 2012, Detwiler finished at +1.6 fWAR with a (10-8) record, a 3.40 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 15 HRs (0.82 HR/9) and 52 walks (2.85 BB/9) allowed in 164.1 IP over which he had 105 Ks (5.75 K/9).
Detwiler on battling for spot in rotation - "I've done it every single year so it's nothing different for me. I've never had just a spot given to me. It's always kind of been just up for grabs and I've won it in the past and think I can do it again if I stay healthy and throw well."
• Doug Fister: 6'8'', RHP - 2013 Stats - (14-9), 33 G, 32 GS, 208.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 14 HRs (0.60 HR/9), 44 BB (1.90 BB/9), 159 K's (6.86 K/9), +4.6 fWAR - Acquired from the Detroit Tigers in return for LHPs Ian Krol and Robbie Ray and IF Steve Lombardozzi, Fister, a 30-year-old veteran of five major league seasons was fourth in the majors in ground ball percentage amongst starters last season and the Nationals are counting on improved infield defense behind him this year making him an even more effective pitcher. After avoiding arbitration with the Tigers and signing a 1-year/$4M deal last winter, Fister and the Nationals avoided arbitration too, agreeing on a 1-year/$7.2M deal.
Fister on (not) studying up on NL hitters: "I don't look at numbers at all to be honest with you. I don't get too much of a scouting report. I really kind of go off of what I see and what I feel. So it's going to be important for me to meet the catchers and to be able to be on the same page and let them know how I kind of attack hitters."
• Gio Gonzalez: 6'0'', LHP - 2013 Stats - (11-8), 32 G, 32 GS, 195.2 IP, 3.36 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 17 HRs (0.78 HR/9), 76 BB (3.50 BB/9, 192 Ks (8.83 K/9), +3.1 fWAR - Gio Gonzalez's second season in D.C. wasn't as successful as his 2012 campaign in the nation's capital when he won 21 games, kept the ball in the park (9 HRs, 0.41 HR/9) and finished at +5.0 fWAR, but the 28-year-old lefty said he learned some important lessons while struggling in 2013.
"You're going to have some ups and down, you're going to hit some [rough] patches," Gonzalez told reporters last month at NatsFest. "But as long as you know how to bounce back and finish strong... you start learning and at the end of the season, I started becoming a pitcher again, and learning that I can get stronger and get better."
Gio Gonzalez on winter bullpen sessions with Jorge Posada: "I think Jorge is a great mentor. He's a childhood dream. I always dreamt about pitching to Jorge Posada. It's not often you get a guy that is more than happy to catch a bullpen for you. Especially with four [World Series] titles. I think he's an inspiration, he's an idol, he's everything you could possibly think of and more."
• Taylor Jordan: 6'3'', RHP - 2013 Stats - (1-3), 9 G, 9 GS, 51.2 IP, 3.66 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 3 HR (0.52 HR/9), 11 BB (1.92 BB/9), 29 Ks (5.05 K/9), +0.7 fWAR - In a season in which he was on an innings limit after Tommy John surgery in 2011, Jordan, 25, an '09 9th Round pick, worked his way up from High-A Potomac to Double-A Harrisburg and eventually the majors. Jordan made his MLB debut on June 29th and made nine starts for the Nationals before he reached his limit. Jordan allowed just four home runs (0.25 HR/9) total in 142 IP in 2013, three of them in the majors. The right-hander finished his minor league campaign with a (9-1) record and a 1.00 ERA in 15 games, 14 of them starts and was named the Nationals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Jordan reportedly suffered a broken right ankle this winter, though he said he doesn't think it will keep him from competing for a spot in the rotation.
Davey Johnson on Taylor Jordan, August 2014: "I like all his pitches, and he had a good slider tonight. I don't think he knows how good his stuff is yet. He relies a lot on the catcher about where to go to and he doesn't think about the count."
• Nathan Karns: 6'3'', RHP - 2013 Stats - (0-1), 3 G, 3 GS, 12 IP, 7.50 ERA, 8.38 FIP, 5 HRs (3.75 HR/9), 6 BB (4.50 BB/9), 11 Ks (4.50 BB/9), -0.4 fWAR - Nathan Karns made his MLB debut in late May, made three starts for the Nationals, then returned to Double-A Harrisburg where the 26-year-old starter put together a strong campaign, finishing at (10-6) with a 3.26 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 48 walks (3.26 BB/9), 14 HRs allowed (0.95 HR/9) and 155 Ks (10.52 K/9) in 132.1 IP. Nats' GM Mike Rizzo said he saw enough from Karns that he wouldn't hesitate to turn to the right-hander again if he was needed in the future. Karns is a long shot, but he's in the mix for the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation.
Rizzo on Karns on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.: "He's 93-96 on his fastball and he's got a good spiked curve and a good feel for the change. I liked the first two outings when he attacked the strike zone..."
• Ross Ohlendorf - 6'4'', RHP - 2013 Stats - (4-1), 16 G, 7 GS, 60.1 IP, 3.28 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 8 HRs (1.19 HR/9), 14 BB (2.09 BB/9), 45 Ks (6.71 K/9), +0.3 fWAR - Veteran right-hander, Ross Ohlendorf, 30, signed a minor league deal with Washington last winter. After putting together a strong run in the bullpen and rotation with Washington after he was called up from Triple-A, the Nationals gave Ohlendorf a 1-year/$1.25M deal for 2014 that gives the big starter some stability after he bounced around for the past few seasons. Ohlendorf's another long shot for a spot in the rotation, but he proved he could help the Nats in any role he was asked to fill.
Ohlendorf on stability with one-year deal: "I feel like there's a good chance of me being on the team versus last year I felt like I was probably going to be in Triple-A to start the year. So I feel a lot better. I just feel better about how last year went and where I am pitching-wise right now."
• Tanner Roark - 6'2'', RHP - 2013 Stats - (7-1), 14 G, 5 GS, 53.2 IP, 1.51 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 1 HR (0.17 HR/9), 11 BB (1.84 BB/9), 40 Ks (6.71 K/9), +1.4 fWAR - Roark may have been the biggest surprise of the 2013 season for the Washington Nationals. The 27-year-old starter, who was acquired in a 2009 trade with the Texas Rangers, made his MLB debut after six minor league seasons. In Triple-A Syracuse, before he was called up to Washington, Roark put up a 3.15 ERA and a 3.00 FIP with 20 walks (1.70 BB/9), six home runs allowed (0.51 HR/9) and 84 Ks (7.15 K/9) in 105.2 IP working out of the bullpen and in the rotation. Will he land the fifth spot in the rotation? Is he more valuable as bullpen arm or a starting option at Triple-A should any of the Nats' starters suffer an injury? Roark earned the right to fight for a rotation spot with his strong season in 2013.
Roark on competing for the Nats' rotation: "I'd love to be the fifth starter, but if I can make the team out of Spring Training, that would be great to help the team out any way I can. So I just want to make the team and I want to win the World Series. That's everybody's desire, right?"
• Stephen Strasburg - 6'4'', RHP - 2013 Stats - (8-9), 30 G, 30 GS, 183 IP, 3.00 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 16 HRs (0.76 HR/9), 56 BB (2.75 BB/9), 191 Ks (9.39 K/9), +3.2 fWAR - Strasburg's up and down 2013 campaign saw him miss time on the DL with a lat strain and battle through an elbow issue which eventually led to offseason surgery that removed "loose bodies" from his right elbow. The 25-year-old right-hander saw his K/9 drop (from 11.13 K/9 in 2012 to 9.39 K/9 in 2013), but also post the highest GB% of his career (51.5% up from 44.2% in 2012). He also threw more innings than he has before in the majors. Another year removed from Tommy John surgery, is 2014 the year we finally see Strasburg put together a full campaign in which he's as dominant as he was expected to be when he was taken no.1 overall in 2009?
Strasburg on what he's working on for 2014: "Work on the pickoff move. Work on time out of the stretch. Work on commanding the fastballs both sides of the plate, sinkers more so, both sides of the plate too. Just trying to take that next evolution. Trying to get more complete."
• Jordan Zimmermann - 6'2'', RHP - (19-9), 32 G, 32 GS, 213.1 IP, 3.25 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 19 HRs (0.80 HR/9), 40 BB (1.69 BB/9), 161 Ks (6.79 K/9), +3.6 fWAR - Jordan Zimmermann was arguably the Nationals' top starter last season in a talented rotation. The 27-year-old, '07 2nd Round pick entered his fifth MLB season determined to reach 200 innings on the mound, which he did for the first time in his career. Zimmermann was dominant at home with a 2.61 ERA in 120.2 IP in the nation's capital over which he held the opposition to a .220/.264/.335 line. Can Zimmermann take it to yet another level this season? The Nationals signed the right-hander to a 2-year/$24M deal this winter and he and the Nats are still considering a long-term deal for the homegrown starter.
Mike Rizzo on Jordan Zimmermann on 106.7 the FAN, May 2013: "Before he was a prototypical power pitcher. Fastball, hard slider. Not a lot of distinction between the velocities of the pitches [and] now he's incorporated a changeup and a curve ball, slider and the fastball..."
• Up Next: The Relievers + Catchers + NRIs...
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- Nationals' Fifth Starter Battle Update: A.J. Burnett Signs With Phillies
- Nationals Rumors: Interest In Ryan Madson, Taylor Jordan's Ankle, #SaveTinkerField
- Nationals Top 5 Spring Training Storylines: The Matt Williams Era Begins
- Nationals Top 5 Spring Training Storylines: Backup Catcher Battle