Ross Detwiler may not be thrilled with the Washington Nationals' decision to move him into a relief role, but as Nats' skipper Matt Williams explained after the decision was announced this week, they think the 28-year-old lefty gives them a unique bullpen weapon.
"I liken him to [Justin] Wilson in Pittsburgh," Williams explained Wednesday night, comparing Detwiler to the 26-year-old Pirates' '08 5th Round pick who moved to the pen in the majors after he started 98 of his 112 minor league outings before making his MLB debut in 2012.
Wilson made 58 appearances for the Bucs in 2013, posting 2.08 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 28 walks (3.42 BB/9) and 59 Ks (7.21 K/9) in 58 games and 73 2/3 IP.
Williams told reporters that he saw Detwiler as, "... that type of power lefty out of your bullpen. Kind of that mold. He's got a little bit different repertoire. But tonight he showed, against the left-handers especially, his curveball really plays. And that's great."
Asked if he expected Detwiler's stuff to tick up a bit when he can go all out coming out of the pen instead of trying to make it work over the course of a start, Williams said it might, but the Nats' '07 1st Round pick's stuff doesn't need to get better.
FBB's Detwiler to the Bullpen Coverage
"His stuff plays as it is right now," Williams said, "and if it ticks up it ticks up."
The Nationals made the decision thinking that, as Williams put it, Detwiler in relief makes the Nats a better team and provides "...something special out of the bullpen for us," as the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore quoted the skipper explaining.
"6'5'', crossfires, mid-90's. There's not a lot of guys [like that]," the first-year skipper said. "And that's part of the reason that we think he's special in that role."
Detwiler made his first relief appearances of the spring on against the Houston Astros on Wednesday night, getting two ground ball outs and K while issuing a two-out walk.
"We got a chance to get him in there against three straight lefties which was good," Williams said after the game. "He was aggressive. He threw two breaking balls for outs, one for a strikeout one for a groundout. But the secret to his success there is his fastball in the zone. I saw aggression. That's what I like. That's what he likes."
The plan going forward is to work Detwiler in slowly as a reliever.
"We'd like to get him in a situation where he's potentially in the middle of an inning and then he finishes the next," Williams said. "That would be a stepping stone for him. Back-to-back, not necessarily at this point. We'll see how it ends up. It may be a back-to-back where he's coming in and facing one guy and then coming back the next day. I wouldn't necessarily think he was going to go back-to-back innings at this point."
Detwiler has thrown 32 1/3 innings out of the bullpen in his major league careeer, posting a 1.11 ERA and a 4.03 FIP as a reliever, while holding opposing hitters to a .171/.283/.255 line.
Williams said the move doesn't mean he'll never start again, but the Nationals think they have a unique weapon with Detwiler in relief. The move was mentioned as a possibility from the start this winter, if Detwiler didn't make the rotation.
Williams said often that he preferred two lefties in his bullpen, though it wasn't a necessity.
The Nationals weren't handing out multi-year deals for relievers this winter, so they found the second lefty they were after in-house.