Nationals manager Davey Johnson wants left-hander Ross Detwiler to get more innings to test his back injury. The herniated disk in his back, which dates to July 4, has kept Detwiler on the 60-day disabled list for half the season.
Detwiler is scheduled to pitch in a game Monday at instructional league in Florida. Then, whether it is winter ball or something else, Johnson wants Detwiler to pitch on regular rest for a month or so to see if he can withstand the rigors of a regular season pitching schedule. Detwiler appears to be reluctant to pitch in winter ball.
"I talked to Det today and I said, 'Det, the only thing I am concerned about is you testing it enough,' " Johnson said. "I don't care if its finding some high school kids and throwing to them in the off season. Just on a regular turn, to make sure that nothing is going to start bothering you.
"You need to give yourself a good enough opportunity early. Follow this with the instructional league or staying in a throwing program and throwing 50 or 60 pitches, three or four innings, just to see that your back can stay loose."
Johnson said having Detwiler get those appearances will give him confidence that he has recovered from the back injury.
"You will have more comfort next year that nothing will pop up and the ball club (will), too," Johnson said. "I know you want to come back and join the club and pitch here. That means nothing. You have proven you can pitch here.
"The only thing in question is if you have four, five, six outings, do you have any recurrence of (the back injury)? He said he feels like he hurt it in L.A. and that he tried to pitch with that. Now is that something that is going to reoccur because it is an old injury? You only know if you go through repetitive starts. That is more important than coming up here and pitching an inning."
Johnson said Zach Walters and Danny Espinosa are possible candidates to play winter ball this season, and there may be more players invited.
"I think Walters might go to winter ball," Johnson said. "I think it is still in question whether Espi is going to go. But the main body of talent here is in pretty good shape, moreso than it was last year. The ballclub is going to be in great shape that way."