Detwiler, who previously was under the impression he’d be used as a reliever this season, was walking off the mound at Nats Park after having just thrown an inning in an exhibition against the Red Sox when manager Davey Johnson told him he should start preparing for his next start.
The lefty did a double-take.
“I thought I heard him right, but I just kept walking,” Detwiler said. “I was kinda going through my head the inning I just got done with. Cat (pitching coach Steve McCatty) came up to me and said, ‘He told you, didn’t he?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. Was he serious?’ It kind of really didn’t sink in until I was throwing my bullpen in Chicago.”
In his 2012 debut as the Nationals’ fifth starter, Detwiler sure made the Nats’ brass look pretty darn smart. For a night at least, he validated their decision to make him part of the rotation by tossing five scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and striking out six.
“Any opportunity to put a big league uniform on (is great), and especially when they’re giving you a starting role, and it’s up to me to go from there,” Detwiler said. “I’m just happy I did.”
Detwiler got into a jam right off the bat against the Mets when he allowed a leadoff double to Ruben Tejada and a single to Ronny Cedeno to begin the game. The lefty had runners at the corners and none out, but he flipped a switch from there, getting the next three Mets hitters in order, including strikeouts of Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda, to end the inning.
“I was leaving the ball up a little bit, and especially the second hitter, my pitch selection was off a little bit,” Detwiler said. “Right there, I realized I needed to snap into it pretty quick or it’s going to get out of hand.”
“After those first pitches, I saw his sinker, that was the best pitch for the night ... so I called a lot of sinkers in that moment,” said catcher Wilson Ramos, who added that Detwiler shook him off maybe once or twice all night. “He never be scared to throw the sinker, so he trusts me.”
Detwiler was able to use his heavy sinker to keep Mets hitters off balance and record six groundball outs. Of the 18 hitters Detwiler faced, only three got the ball out of the infield, which is a testament to how well the Nats hurler was able to work down in the zone.
He balanced the sinker with a low-90s fastball which he was able to elevate and blow by his opposition. The combination of the heavy stuff down and the hard stuff up made Detwiler tough to touch Tuesday night.
“A lot of hitters like to swing this pitch right here (motioning at his chest), but they don’t hit it,” Ramos said. “Most of the hitters, with two strikes, they try to hit the ball the other way, and this pitch right here ... it’s not easy to hit that pitch. Sometimes he threw it, because he threw a lot of sinkers down and away, down in the zone, when he throws the fastball up, the hitters swing, but they miss it.”