VIERA, Fla. - While it's widely assumed that Chien-Ming Wang's hamstring injury might have opened up a spot in the Nationals rotation for John Lannan, we shouldn't necessarily forget about Ross Detwiler.
Yes, Lannan led the Nationals in wins last season and is owed $5 million this season. He's a consistent performer, eats innings, and the Nats would not be in bad shape, to say the least, if he opens the season as their fifth starter.
But Detwiler has put together a pretty strong spring, and manager Davey Johnson essentially said today that the 2007 first-round pick is in the mix, along with Lannan, for the No. 5 spot on the Nats' staff.
"John Lannan's been kind of competing with Wang for that (fifth) spot in the rotation. I expect that he's going to still be in that spot," Johnson said. "He's a starter. ... (Detwiler) did a good job out of the 'pen (last year) and did a good job starting. We still haven't seen, as far as I'm concerned, the best out of Ross Detwiler. So how that plays out the rest of the year, I'm going to get him ready as a starter."
Last year, the Nats kept Detwiler on a starter's schedule out of the 'pen, using him every fifth day. They'll continue to do that this spring as they try and see if he can do enough to wrestle the No. 5 spot away from Lannan.
Detwiler has given up three runs in 7 2/3 innings this spring, allowing six hits and striking out nine. Lannan has allowed seven runs on 14 hits in 9 innings, striking out seven.
If you're wondering how Tom Gorzelanny fits into all this, the Nats will continue to prepare him as a starter, as well, although he appears ticketed for the bullpen as a long reliever.
"Gorzo, to me, is still a starter, and I'm still going to have him ready to throw 80-100 pitches by the end of spring," Johnson said. "Same as (Craig) Stammen. But of those three, Detwiler shows a lot of promise."
Johnson plans to have Detwiler start in a minor league game tomorrow to make sure he continues to build arm strength and get enough work in.
The Nats skipper also said today he plans to break camp with seven relievers on the 25-man roster, two of which would likely be long-relievers who could make a spot-start if needed.
The makeup of the Nats' rotation will stay the same in the coming days, even with an off-day coming up on Monday. Edwin Jackson will start tomorrow, followed by Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday, Lannan on Wednesday, Gio Gonzalez on Thursday and Jordan Zimmermann on Friday.
Meanwhile, Johnson saw Wang today, and said the righty was in "good spirits". Johnson's concern with Wang at this point is that he'll push things too hard in his rehab and try to return too soon, so he's instructed those around Wang to make sure he isn't rushing back.