Though he would appear to have an obvious leg up to reclaim the job he lost last season while on the disabled list, Ross Detwiler is comfortable with the idea of competing for the final spot in the Nationals’ rotation this spring.
“I’ve done it every single year, so it’s nothing different for me,” he said Saturday at NatsFest. “I’ve never had a spot just given to me; it’s always been up for grabs. I’ve won it in the past. I think I can do it again if I stay healthy and throw well.”
Detwiler’s standing as the Nationals’ No. 5 starter didn’t seem to be in question at the end of the season, the majority of which he spent on the DL with a herniated disc in his back. But general manager Mike Rizzo and new manager Matt Williams have said this winter there will be an “open competition” for the job, with young right-handers Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan given the opportunity to beat out the more-experienced Detwiler.
The left-hander, who turns 28 in March, understands he needs to re-establish himself and prove he’s 100 percent healthy and capable of making it through a full big-league season for only the second time in his career.
He also admits he learned a few things last year while trying to pitch his way through the injury, which began as an oblique strain suffered while covering first base in a May 15 game at Dodger Stadium. In seven starts prior to that game, he boasted a 2.53 ERA. After spending a month on the DL, he returned to make five more starts but saw his ERA balloon to 6.31 before he was placed on the DL again for good with the back injury.
“Every injury is going to be different, but I’m not going to try to push through like I did last year,” he said. “I started the year great, then I had a little oblique problem in L.A. and tried to push through that and do everything I could. And I lost my location. I was walking a few people and then I’d throw a ball down the middle and get hit hard. The thing I guess I learned the most is how I have to feel before I have to sit out, instead of just trying to push through it.”
Detwiler insists he feels great now, any lingering concerns erased after he made several successful starts (pitching as many as six innings at a time) in September in the Florida instructional league. He has been throwing regularly this winter at home in Missouri and said he’ll be in a normal routine for the start of spring training.
“I feel like I’m ready to go already,” he said. “I’m kind of itching to get back out there.”