TAMPA, Fla. - It may only be spring training, and the results may mean nothing, but that doesn’t mean that Ross Detwiler wasn’t nervous before today’s 4-2 loss to the Yankees. After all, it was his first time in a big league game in exactly eight months.
Detwiler, who missed the last half of last season with a back injury, went 1 1/3 innings today, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits. He struck out three and walked none, showing good fastball velocity (up to 94 mph on the gun) and an impressive curveball, although he struggled with his command.
“It was all right,” Detwiler said of his outing. “That was the first time I’ve faced big league hitters since July, so it’s been a little while. I think I was a little too excited out there. Every fastball I threw was up in the zone. Other than that, curveball seemed to come out all right. ...
“I had a tough time slowing myself down out there. Especially before the game, I tried to take as much time as I could to warm up. I was just kind of a little over-amped. In those situations, you need to step back and slow yourself down quite a bit. I didn’t do a great job of that.”
Detwiler has always been a guy that relies heavily on his two-seam fastball. Last season, he threw 88 percent fastballs and only used his curveball 8.2 percent of the time, according to Fangraphs. That was largely due, Detwiler says, to his back injury, which he tried to pitch through for a while and affected how he could throw his off-speed pitches.
Detwiler started to feel the curveball come back early in camp, now that he’s healthy and could get good extension through the pitch. And it carried over to today’s game. Detwiler struck out Brian McCann with a nice curve in the second inning, and according to Nationals manager Matt Williams, Detwiler threw nine curves overall.
“I think it’s really a pitch you have to finish,” Detwiler said. “Being healthy now, I kind of realized how bad it was, how I was kind of standing up on it and not finishing it, so it would kind of roll out of my hand. So I think if I stay through it, I kind of showed myself today that it could be pretty good.
“It’s something I definitely need to get throwing, get working for me before the season starts. I think it was pretty good today, all things considered, however many hits and however many runs.”
Detwiler’s outing wasn’t what he wanted statistically, but he got his work in and will try and build off the outing his next time out.
“What I can take out of it was there wasn’t great contact,” Detwiler said. “I think there was a double down the right field line that the guy hit very late. Maybe a broken bat in there or something. There were a couple balls that were squared up, just got to get the ball down and make them ground balls instead of line drives.”
Jose Lobaton caught Detwiler today, and for what it’s worth, Lobaton said he was really impressed with Detwiler’s curve. How much can it help the left-hander if he is able to be confident in the curve and mix it in more frequently along with the hard two-seamer?
“A lot,” Lobaton said. “The curveball that I saw today, from the bullpen to the game, that was awesome. That’s a big league curveball. If he can throw that pitch and throw that two-seamer, I think he’s gonna make a lot of outs. Catching, I can see a lot of stuff and I can say that the breaking ball that he showed me today, that was really good. I really like it.”
Lobaton also caught Tanner Roark today in the right-hander’s spring debut. Roark went two scoreless innings and allowed two hits. Lobaton came away impressed with Roark’s command and his slider, while Roark was just happy to get in a solid two frames.
“Felt good,” Roark said. “Had good command. Trying to locate fastballs. Obviously, they know fastball is coming first pitch anyway, so a lot of ambushes. But that’s good. Get your work in. It’s good to be out there and competing again and see live hitters. It feels good.
“I feel confident in everything. All my pitches. Felt good. I threw a slide-step slider today, which felt good. It’s good to have a repertoire and everything working. ... Just keep pounding the zone and getting outs. That’s the main thing. Strike one, get ahead of guys, read swings and get what they’re doing. Pitch inside a lot.”
Roark is in competition with Detwiler and Taylor Jordan for the fifth spot in the Nats rotation this spring, and if the 27-year-old Roark doesn’t get the starting job, he could end up in the bullpen as a long reliever. Despite the uncertainty of whether he’ll eventually make the Nats’ 25-man roster and what role he might serve, Roark says he’s staying focused on the task at hand.
“I try not to think about it at all,” he said. “If you fill your head with that kind of stuff, it can be negative for you. Just try to stay positive and go out there and compete and play hard and leave it all on the field.”