Is Detwiler ready to become the Nationals' fifth starter?

With good reason, the center of attention in the Nationals' starting rotation are the three frontline pitchers: Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and newly-acquired Gio Gonzalez.

Then there are veterans like John Lannan, and rebounding pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler.

But who is the key to this rotation for all of 2012?

This season could be the time Detwiler finally makes his move. With a clean bill of health and the opportunity to begin the season with Washington, many believe Detwiler would be the perfect fifth starter.

Or, if Wang and Lannan do what they are capable of from the outset, Detwiler would become the long reliever in the bullpen following the departure of Collin Balester.

But what might be more likely is Wang is not able to pitch the entire season and Detwiler will have his opportunity to show what the Nationals originally thought he could do when they drafted him in 2007.

Detwiler made 16 starts last season for Triple-A Syracuse, going 6-6 with a 4.53 ERA. He struck out 63 and walked 32. With the Nationals in 2011, Detwiler went 4-5 with a 3.00 ERA in 15 games, 10 of those starts.

Either way, it is certainly a great insurance policy to have. Not only could Detwiler be that long reliever, but he also could be the fifth starter the Nationals seek.

But on the other side, is that too much to ask for a player who has made only 29 starts in the majors since 2009? It could be.

Detwiler is healthy, and that is something he could not say two years ago. There are no more questions about his delivery and coming across his body to deliver to the plate. It will be interesting to see what the left-hander might be able to do being on the 25-man from the beginning of the season and with no options remaining, the Nationals will be able to see. And you have to think that Detwiler, fresh off a showcase of his talents in the Taiwan all-star series, is ready to take on the role of every day starter and leader.

Detwiler turns 26 on March 6, and with so much experience with the franchise since 2007, he is ready to take on a leadership position. Although he has only 172 1/3 innings logged in his career, he knows what his stuff can do to a major league hitter, and that knowledge will be a crucial component of what the Nationals hope can be a breakout season.

Prior to the trade for Gonzalez, general manager Mike Rizzo talked about Brad Peacock being the next Jordan Zimmermann-type pitcher for the Nationals in 2012. Maybe Detwiler could replace Peacock now as the next pitcher with quality stuff to step up in the Nationals' rotation.

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