LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It’s a 9-5 Braves lead here at Champion Field as we enter the ninth inning. Anthony Rendon and Sandy Leon delivered back-to-back RBI doubles in the eighth to make it a four-run game.
It would be easy to disregard Ross Detwiler’s spring debut as a worthless Grapefruit League game against the Braves, an outing that Detwiler could toss aside as soon as he left the mound.
Detwiler sure doesn’t view it that way, however.
“I was just in a competitive game,” Detwiler said in the clubhouse following his start. “You saw the lineup they put out there today. I could’ve been embarrassed pretty easily. I think this helped me out a lot, seeing a lot of their top guys. Makes you focus on keeping the ball down because every one of them can hit the ball a mile.”
The Braves fielded a lineup today that contained at least five, possibly six guys that will be in their batting order come opening day. Among that group were Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla, who combined to hit 114 homers last season.
Detwiler will only have one more start with the Nationals before leaving April 4 to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, making today’s experience all the more important. He viewed today much like he’d view a real start, focusing on keeping the ball down and getting ahead of hitters.
“It’s going to be a short road ‘til I’m in the WBC, so I’m pretty happy to face those hitters,” Detwiler said. “They get an extra look at me, though, and that’s a pretty good lineup. It is what it is. You go out there and you compete.”
Detwiler noted that he was really focusing on throwing first-pitch strikes today, and he said he was successful to eight of the 14 hitters he faced.
The left-hander was asked why that was a point of emphasis today.
“It always really is, I just kind of sucked at it last year,” he deadpanned. “So, getting a little better.”
Detwiler threw a bunch of four-seamers to open at-bats today in an attempt to disguise his sinking two-seamer.
“It’s something that I did later on in the year last year,” Detwiler said. “I think it keeps them off the sinker a little bit, kind of surprises them instead of being able to time the sinker with the first pitch and then be right on it the next time.”
Detwiler estimated that eight of his 41 pitches were off-speed. Manager Davey Johnson has been trying to get Detwiler to mix in his curveball and changeup more in order to keep hitters off his sinker, and Detwiler threw a few good curves today.
He got Heyward looking at one in the first inning and threw two straight curves to Freeman in the third inning.
“It’s coming along a little bit,” Detwiler said. “Fortunately, I was able to get Heyward in the first there, looking, after I threw one in the dirt, and then the second one on Freeman, went back-to-back, kind of backed up a little bit and he popped it up. But it’s a feel pitch and that was the first time out.
“So overall, I think it went well.”
Update: It’s a final. Nats lose to the Braves 9-5. Back with more in a few.