LAKELAND, Fla. - Because the Nationals’ 12-10 slugfest took 3 hours, 27 minutes to complete, and because effective pitching is at a premium in a game where so many runs are scored, it’s easy to forget that left-hander Ross Detwiler started - and prospered.
His 57-pitch effort - his first appearance since returning from Team USA and the World Baseball Classic, and following a seven-day layoff since his WBC relief stint - was still a positive step in preparing for the Nationals rotation.
It came against a Tigers lineup stacked with guys who can rip the cover off the ball but didn’t against Detwiler. Well, with the exception of the second batter he faced, Torii Hunter, who crushed a ball off the top of the berm in left field.
Detwiler was thrilled to face live competition again - and even happier that he fared so well against a power-packed batting order.
“It’s a good lineup,” he said. “You just try to keep the ball down. Actually the only ball I threw down in that first inning was to Torii Hunter and I don’t think he missed it. It’s just going out there, trying to throw strikes, trying to get ahead. When I did get ahead, I was effective.”
He got ahead often enough that he was able to throw his change-up, a pitch he’s been working on perfecting this spring. Detwiler went four innings, allowing a run on three hits, walking one and striking out one.
“That’s the pitch I’ve been working on this spring. ... I changed my grip a little. I’m trying to throw it like a fastball with a different grip on it,” he said.
Detwiler felt like he had something left in the tank, so he went to the bullpen after being pulled from the game and threw 15 more pitches under the watchful eye of pitching coach Steve McCatty.
“I could have gone more, but Cat pulled me aside and said he didn’t want me to,” Detwiler explained.
Manager Davey Johnson wasn’t sure what he’d get out of Detwiler, or how far the southpaw would be able to go given his relative inactivity of late. So he was pleased with the outing, even if Detwiler wasn’t too accurate with his curve.
“I thought Ross was great,” he said. “He threw four quality innings. Cat was a little worried. The schedule he’d been on, he didn’t want to go too far with him. (Detwiler) wanted to continue; he said, ‘I’m just feeling good.’ “
Detwiler said he will work up to 75 pitches in his next start, then aim to throw 90.
While Detwiler looked good, reliever Ryan Perry didn’t. Converted to a starter last year and working against the team that traded him to the Nationals in December 2011, Perry pitched a 1-2-3 fifth inning and then promptly imploded.
He didn’t retire any of the five batters he faced in the sixth, sandwiching two walks around a hit batter, followed by a single and a double. He entered the game with a 7-1 lead and by the time his line was finished, his ERA had swelled from 6.23 to 12.38 and the teams were engaging in modified batting practice.
Asked what happened to Perry, Johnson said, “You tell me. I don’t know. The wheels fell off. Threw a great first inning, couldn’t find the plate in the second.”
The Nationals are making another round of cuts tomorrow and it wouldn’t be surprising if Perry was among them.