Nationals need confident Detwiler to solidify left side of bullpen

Losing 8-0 is never fun. But getting Ross Detwiler some extended work is a promising sign.

Doug Fister struggled in his first start for the Nationals, surrendering seven runs, five of them earned runs, in 4 1/3 innings.

Detwiler had a very difficult May 6 against the Dodgers, giving up four runs on three hits himself, over one inning.

But Friday he was able to hang in there, getting out of the fifth inning for Fister. Detwiler went 2 1/3 frames, scattering three hits, one hit batter, striking out two and walking one. Former battery mate Derek Norris got the lone run-scoring base hit against Detwiler.

The outing was a good step in the right direction for Detwiler. Prior to May 6, Detwiler had been utilized only once in a 10-day span dating back to April 27.

The veteran left-hander was used to pitching five or six innings at a time as a starter in the past. Coming out of the bullpen, his workload has changed.

Can Detwiler be a workhorse, long reliever from the left side out of the 'pen? Craig Stammen has embraced that role and excelled. Can Detwiler also embrace his role now as a reliever?

When the team called up Blake Treinen this week for a spot start, it was clear that Detwiler was not going to be the go-to spot starter for manager Matt Williams.

The May 6 appearance was a rough one to say the least. Hopefully Friday's 2 1/3 innings against the Oakland A's is more indicative of what Detwiler can do.

In six of his last 10 appearances he has been able to go at least 1 2/3 innings. In four of those 10 outings he has been able to get at least six outs. If Detwiler can string together those longer outings and calm down games that have gotten out of hand, it will help to make the left side of the bullpen stronger. Last season, the lefty relievers out of the bullpen were a weakness in the first few months.

But this recent downslide, eight earned runs in last four appearances, is something to watch. If Detwiler can regain his confidence, maintain good location and put together outings like he did Friday, the Nats bullpen will be able to buy the offense some time to get back in games.

Detwiler is important to that cohesion in the pen. The Nationals really don't have another lefty with his experience as a starter and now a reliever. He just needs to go back and watch video of his 2012 performance against the Cardinals when he kept the Nationals in a must win game.

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