Detwiler back in the rotation, Wang to the ‘pen

Less than a month ago, Ross Detwiler was bumped from the Nationals’ starting rotation after three straight rocky starts.

Now, Detwiler finds himself back in the rotation after four straight rocky starts from Chien-Ming Wang.

After taking a bit of a verbal swing at Rays manager Joe Maddon this afternoon, Nats manager Davey Johnson announced that Wang will be moved to the bullpen, while Detwiler will again become the Nationals’ No. 5 starter. He’ll take the mound Sunday when the Nats face the Orioles at Camden Yards.

“Chien-Ming is very valuable to us, and I feel in the (four) starts, that he hasn’t gotten better with his mechanics,” Johnson said. “I had a chat with him earlier in the day, and I need him, I need him to get right.”

Wang will work on a starter’s schedule, pitching every fifth day out of the bullpen. He’ll also work closely with pitching coach Steve McCatty in between starts in an effort to improve the timing of his throwing motion and get back to getting more over the top of the ball. Johnson feels Wang’s arm slot has dropped recently, causing his sinker to move more laterally instead of down in the zone.

Despite this move, Johnson said he still envisions Wang playing a factor in the Nats’ rotation later this season.

“I still like him as a starter,” Johnson said. “I like his arm strength. I like his stuff. His first time out in the spring, he was about ten percent from being ready, but he was awesome. He pitched against the Yankees, and everything looked great to me. And then he did that cartwheel and pulled his hammy, and when he’s come back from that, we might have rushed him a little bit, but he hasn’t seemed to get his rhythm back.

“And so hopefully he’ll get it, because I’m definitely going to need him. I do like him starting, and I know I’m going to need him towards the end of the year.”

With Wang on the DL to begin the season, Detwiler pitched in the rotation and pitched very well early on. He didn’t allow more than three earned runs in any of his first six starts, and compiled a 2.10 ERA in that time. But he took a turn in the middle of May, struggling in his next three outings, failing to work more than five innings any of the three times out. It was then that he was moved to the bullpen with Wang becoming the new fifth starter.

Detwiler pitched very effectively out of the bullpen, however, putting up a 1.35 ERA in relief. Last night, he worked 3 2/3 hitless innings in relief of Wang, striking out three. Johnson feels confident Detwiler can carry that type of effort into his starts.

“If you would’ve compared his performance last night with his last two outings (as a starter), it’s a totally different pitcher,” Johnson said. “He was dominating last night, very aggressive after the hitters. In his last two starts, he was kind of pitching defensively, kind of not attacking the hitter.

“I think the stint in the bullpen, if anything, helped him. And with the amount of pitches he threw last night, it’s a perfect tune-up for him to start on Sunday.”

Moving Wang to the bullpen will now give the Nats four righty relievers and three lefties, which Johnson feels gives him a little better balance. He also believes the Nats will be able to work around the fact that Wang will only pitch every five days, saying that if anything, his bullpen has been under-worked recently because of how well the starters have pitched.

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