Ross Detwiler made his first Grapefruit League start this afternoon in Tampa, Florida's George M. Steinbrenner Field, where the 27-year-old left-hander and the visiting Washington Nationals took on the New York Yankees.
After an injury-shortened 2013 campaign, the '07 1st Round pick is competing for the fifth spot in the Nats' rotation, with right-handers Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan the other top candidates.
Detwiler has a significant advantage in experience over Roark and Jordan, both of whom debuted in the majors last summer, and before today's game new skipper Matt Williams said Detwiler's history with the organization definitely plays a big part in the evaluation process.
"It factors in a lot," Williams told reporters. "He knows the league. He knows hitters. He's been there. But again, we want to build everybody to be in that spot. That's the only thing you really can do, is build these guys, so we've got a number of starting pitchers that we have to make sure to build their innings up."
In order to get all of the pitchers the innings they need, the Nationals are stacking starters early this spring. That set up a situation this afternoon that saw Roark following Detwiler on the mound against the Yankees.
Detwiler was throwing a 93-94 mph fastball in the first inning against New York as he got through a quick, 11-pitch, 1-2-3 frame, striking both Brett Gardner and Brian McCann out looking around a groundout to short off Derek Jeter's bat. Gardner got a 94 mph fastball outside. McCann watched a breaking ball fall in across the zone for a called strike three.
Brian Roberts worked the count full against Detwiler in the bottom of the second, spitting on a 2-2 curve and then lining a single to center on a 3-2 fastball. Yankees' backstop Francisco Cervelli was first-pitch swinging and singled to left when Detwiler tried to throw a fastball inside on the first pitch of the next at bat. Detwiler got up 0-2 with an 0-1 curve outside to Kelly Johnson, but gave up an RBI double to left that gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead and two runners in scoring position.
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A throwing error on Zach Walters allowed two more to score as the shortstop rushed trying to get Ichiro Suzuki on a slow chopper and fired wide of first. 3-0 Yanks. Left fielder Zoilo Almonte hit a ground-rule double out to right on a high heater from Detwiler and catcher Corban Joseph's RBI ground ball through second made it a 4-0 Yankees' lead, pushing Detwiler up to 31 pitches before he recorded an out.
Detwiler's 36th pitch was a 2-2 curve that got a check-swing strike three from Brett Gardner, but it ended Detwiler's day earlier than he probably would have liked.
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Tanner Roark took the mound in the third, surrendering a line drive single to left in the first at bat, when Brian McCann ripped into a 1-1 change. Roark's fastball sat around 93 mph. A 1-2 curve to Brian Roberts got a weak fly to center for the first out of the frame. A 6-4-3 DP off Francisco Cervelli's bat got Roark threw a quick nine-pitch inning.
Kelly Johnson lined out to second a 92 mph 2-2 fastball from Roark to start the Yankees' fourth. A 91 mph heater to Ichiro Suzuki got a fly to left for out no.2. Zoilo Almonte chased a 1-1 curve into the dirt, took a 92 mph fastball inside for a ball then went the other way with a 2-2 fastball outside only to get thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Tyler Moore got an outfield assist for the strong throw in to second.
Two scoreless for Roark on 22 pitches.
Zach Walters homered for the first time this spring (6 for 7, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR) in the Nationals' fifth, taking Yankees' right-hander Shawn Kelley deep to center field for a solo blast that got the Nats on the board. 4-1 NY.
Xavier Cedeno got some good matchups as he fights for a spot as the second lefty in the Nats' pen. The left-hander abused Yankees' left-handed hitter Corban Joseph in a lefty vs lefty matchup in the fifth, striking the catcher out to start the inning. Brett Gardner, another lefty, got ahead 3-1, fouled off a 90 mph fastball then lined a double to the left-center gap on a full-count fastball high in the zone. Gardner hustled around to second to beat the throw in.
A groundout by Derek Jeter brought a third lefty to the plate in the form of Brian McCann, who lined out to right. Scoreless innings for Cedeno.
Eury Perez and Denard Span hit back-to-back singles to start the Nats' sixth and an error by Derek Jeter on a Danny Espinosa grounder up the middle allowed Perez to score and make it a 4-2 game.
Christian Garcia worked a scoreless inning for the Nationals in the sixth, giving up a ground-rule double and a walk but no runs. Aaron Barrett gave up back-to-back singles to start the Yankees' seventh, then retired the next three batters for a scoreless frame of his own. Manny Delcarmen worked a scoreless eighth for the Nationals.
No comeback today though, Yankees win, 4-2 final.