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Washington Nationals' 5th Starter Chatter: John Lannan, Ross Detwiler And The Persistent Rumors.

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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Starting pitcher Ross Detwiler #48 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Starting pitcher Ross Detwiler #48 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on September 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak noted on Twitter (@acomak) last week that Washington Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson had talked to reporters about the pitchers competing for a spot in the Nats' rotation and had, "... said Ross Detwiler's been one of #Nats best pitchers for 2nd straight spring." When Johnson talked to reporters about moving Detwiler into the starting rotation last August, the then-68-year-old skipper said the team had high hopes for the '07 1st Round pick who had impressed Johnson from the start of the 2011 campaign. "He's very poised out there, makes quality pitches, I mean he had a great Spring Training," Johnson explained, "By all [accounts] he probably should have made the club out of Spring Training. He was probably the best pitcher in the Spring." In five games, three of them starts in Grapefruit League action last Spring, Detwiler had given up 18 hits and seven runs, five earned, with three walks and 12 K's in 17.0 IP...

In 16 starts and 87.1 IP last year at Triple-A Syracuse, Detwiler had a 4.53 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 32 walks (3.30 BB/9) and 63 K's (6.49 K/9). Working out of the bullpen in the majors, the third-year pro (Detwiler pitched one inning late in 2007 after he was taken 6th overall that June) had a 1.80 ERA and a 3.03 FIP in 10.0 IP in 2011. Detwiler made one start early in the season, after he returned to the rotation in August he walked 15 and K'd 31 in nine starts and 50.2 IP over which he had a 3.20 ERA.

While Detwiler's shown he can work out of the pen comfortably, both the Nats' skipper and Nats' GM Mike Rizzo have said this Spring that they see Detwiler's fellow Nats' lefty John Lannan as a starter rather than a reliever, so as things stand right now, with Chien-Ming Wang injured, Lannan's more likely to end up starting with Detwiler (who's out of options) working out of the pen as a long reliever, though Lannan's name has come up time and time again this Spring in rumors which started the same day the Nationals signed free agent right-hander Edwin Jackson.

Not everyone's convinced that's how things will actually play out, however. Former Nats' GM Jim Bowden, who was the general manager in Washington when they drafted Detwiler, wrote on Twitter this week (@JimBowdenESPNXM) that, "Once Wang is placed on DL most are assuming Lannan will automatically replace him in rotation.... not so fast... Ross Detwiler in conversation."

Anonymous rival executives told's Bill Ladson,'s Jon Heyman and's Buster Olney last week, before Chien-Ming Wang's hamstring injury, that the Nationals continued to look for a trade for Lannan, but shouldn't expect much in return from a team willing to take on the 27-year-old left-hander's $5M dollar 2012 salary. In his article entitled, "Nationals shouldn't expect much back for Lannan due to $5M salary", Mr. Heyman wrote that the Nationals would continue to attempt to deal Lannan though, since, "... they have seven viable starters, with seventh man Ross Detwiler making about a tenth of Lannan's salary."

On Monday,'s Ken Rosenthal was still writing about Lannan being available, noting that he heard Detroit and Boston were the most, "... serious on Lannan," before adding that there were, "Two issues: #Nationals' desire to clear Lannan's entire $5M and LHP's blah spring."

So, if Lannan's too expensive for what he offers for other teams to include prospects in a deal in which they take on his contract, what about Detwiler? Would the Nationals consider dealing the left-hander they've reportedly resisted dealing in the past? Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo wrote this past weekend in his weekly "Sunday Baseball Notes" column that the Nationals, "... may be leery of dealing either [Lannan or Detwiler]," after the injury to Wang, but though, "Interest in Lannan has diminished with some teams that feel what they have is just as good... in fact, teams are more interested in lefty Ross Detwiler’s upside."

So is Davey Johnson.

While the Washington Times' Amanda Comak wrote this past weekend that the Nats' skipper, "... danced around the question of if there would be direct competition between Lannan and Detwiler for the No. 5 starter spot in the event Wang needs more time," the manager did say again that he considers Lannan a starter, but the Nationals will continue to prepare Detwiler for the season as if he will be a starter as well. "'As far as I’m concerned, we still haven’t seen the best of Ross Detwiler,'" Johnson told the Washington Times' reporter, "'how that plays out the rest of the year, I’m going to get him ready as a starter.'" The Nats' manager was impressed enough with Detwiler last Spring when Johnson was in an advisory role, that he made sure to give him a shot to start again once he took over on the Nationals' bench.

With room for Detwiler in the bullpen and Wang's future uncertain does it make sense for the Nationals to trade a starter now? Having already had a pitcher suffer an injury that could threaten the depth the Nationals considered a strength at the start of Spring Training, will they take a chance of dealing either Detwiler or Lannan? Are the Nats as desperate to clear Lannan's salary as reporters are being told? Having traded two major league-ready arms (in Brad Peacock and Tom Milone) and having lost the top left-hander in the organization (Sammy Solis) to Tommy John surgery, will the Nationals risk dealing any more of their pitching? With Wang injured, "Lannan as No. 5 and Detwiler as the sixth starter out of the pen is a standard, and sensible, approach," Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell wrote in a chat yesterday, "But Detwiler does look like he's 'getting it.'" Are the Nationals confident enough in their '07 1st Round pick and their pitching depth that they'll actually make a deal?