A late Strasburg replacement, Detwiler doesn't disappoint

VIERA, Fla. - Back in July 2010, Stephen Strasburg was scratched from a start just minutes before first pitch because of shoulder tightness, forcing Miguel Batista to the mound.

That turn of events didn't please the tens of thousands of fans who had come out to Nationals Park not to see Batista, but the flame-throwing rookie phenom whom he replaced.

As Ross Detwiler started going through his pre-start routine earlier today, he couldn't help but think that he was today's Miguel Batista.

While Strasburg was originally scheduled to start tonight against the Marlins, the Nationals revealed yesterday that they'd decided instead to push the righty back a day, setting him up to start opening day on normal rest. As a result, Detwiler was given the ball tonight, leaving the 26-year-old a bit concerned that he'd disappoint the fans at Space Coast Stadium when he, not Strasburg took the ball to start tonight's game.

"I remember when (Strasburg) went down and Miggy had to start for him and they announced Miggy's name and everybody booed," Detwiler said. "That was my thought when I was out there stretching. Nobody really booed that I heard, so it's a good day."

It wasn't just a good day for Detwiler because nobody booed; it was a legitimately good day.

The lefty threw five strong innings against a quality Marlins lineup, allowing just one run on three hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Detwiler threw 69 pitches and had an incredible ball-to-strike ratio, tossing 50 strikes.

"I was getting ahead of hitters, (which) just makes them play my game instead of the other way around," Detwiler said. "I don't have to throw strikes behind in the count when you know what's coming. It's just a game of getting ahead."

Detwiler's impressive outing today came on just three days rest, making it that much more impressive.

"You see why we like him," manager Davey Johnson said. "He was totally under control, he made great pitches. He threw the heck out of the ball. It was very impressive, fun to watch. Overpowering early, but hitting his spots. That's what I saw last year, that's what I'm seeing now."

After being used as a starter nearly his whole career, Detwiler will have to change his mindset this year, as he'll be coming out of the bullpen in long relief and as a spot-starter this season. That's something which the lefty says won't be easy to adjust to.

"(Starting, you can) take your time and make sure everything's working," Detwiler said. "Make sure the ball's down in the bullpen. (In relief), you never know. It's just kind of a toss-up with time. You could have too long, you could have too short. It's set when you start. There's a set starting time and you just kind of work backwards from there."

It might not be an easy adjustment, but in Johnson's mind, he'll need Detwiler at his best this season, regardless of how much time he actually ends up spending in the 'pen.

"You look at the Phillies - have a great rotation last year, and (Vance) Worley ends up winning (11) games coming from the 'pen, and (Kyle) Kendrick started a lot. So the guys in the 'pen, they're invaluable, the spot starters.

"(Detwiler's) very valuable, very important on the ball club, being available."

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