Detwiler returns, will start Sunday in Lakeland (plus pitching notes)

VIERA, Fla. - The only thing disappointing about Ross Detwiler’s experience in the World Baseball Classic was the way it ended.

Less than 24 hours after Team USA was eliminated by Puerto Rico, the left-hander returned to the Nationals. Detwiler, who didn’t pitch in the Americans’ losses to the Domincan Republic and Puerto Rico, will jump right into the fray and start Sunday against the Tigers in Lakeland.

Detwiler relished the opportunity to represent his county and get some hands-on coaching from four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux, the pitching coach for the U.S.

“He had a lot of good things to say, whether it was what count we were in or why somebody didn’t throw a pitch the right way or whatever,” Detwiler said. “I had, I think, three or four bullpen sessions with him. It was very beneficial to me.”

As for the early exit, Detwiler admitted he was surprised by the fact that Team USA was unable to advance to the final round in San Francisco.

“I thought we were better than we showed,” he said. “Sometimes the game goes that way.”

Asked if it was a positive experience other than the last two losses, Detwiler said, “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Not every American player shares Detwiler’s enthusiasm, however, and therein lies one of the problems with the WBC: It can’t guarantee fans the opportunity to see the best players representing each country since many beg off because of injury or the fact that they’re fighting for a roster spot and wary of missing time with their major league teams.

Detwiler isn’t sure how to correct that flaw.

“I take a lot of pride in somebody asking me to represent my country, so it was a no-brainer to me,” he explained. “I understand if people have lingering injuries or whatever, but if somebody’s scared to get hurt, then why are you playing the game? That’s something that kind of happens in professional sports.”

While Detwiler has returned, left-hander Gio Gonzalez has not. Manager Davey Johnson said Gonzalez remains in Miami.

When he makes his way back to Nationals camp, Gonzalez’s next start probably won’t come against major league hitters. Johnson is planning to pitch the southpaw in a minor league game Monday, while right-hander Jordan Zimmermann starts against the Tigers in a 1:05 p.m. game at Space Coast Stadium.

Detwiler’s return will have a ripple effect on Chris Young, the veteran righty who has made two starts in Detwiler’s rotation spot while the lefty was with Team USA. Right now, Johnson said, Young is scheduled to start March 20 and 25. After that, the future for the 6-foot-10 pitcher becomes decidedly unclear.

The Nationals signed Young to a minor league deal in late February and he has an opt-out date of March 24 and no guarantee of a roster spot unless someone gets hurt.

“I like him,” Johnson said. “I think he’s a good pitcher and he’s throwing the ball well. But he’s not a candidate to pitch out of my ‘pen. I think everybody looks at him as a starter. ... It’s either the rotation or not.”

Update: Johnson said that the Nationals will make their next round of cuts before Monday’s game.

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