Now that Doug Fister has been obtained by the Nationals to be the fourth starter in the rotation, speculation has now started as to who will nail down the fifth starter job for the 2014 season.
Ross Detwiler would be the leading candidate for the position based upon the fact that he had a breakthrough 2012 season, and was the fifth starter in 2013 until he had to end his season in June due to a back injury.
Detwiler’s injury was more serious than initially diagnosed (a constant problem of Nats players). It turned out that he didn’t just have a strain. The information released by the team on Detwiler’s condition went from back strain to pinched nerve to finally a herniated disc in his back.
Since Detwiler went on the DL in June he pitched in the instructional league, but is now taking the winter off and will not pitch again until spring training.
A herniated disc is an injury that is difficult to treat. Surgery for the condition is no guarantee that it will be repaired. Sometimes people are no better off after surgery for a herniated disc than before the surgery was done. A herniated disc can press on nerves, leading to numbness and pain in the back, legs and/or arms. None of that is good for a pitcher’s performance.
Mike Rizzo, in my mind, fueled speculation about Detwiler’s health when before the Fister trade was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, announced that Detwiler was not guaranteed a spot in the rotation. Rizzo mentioned that Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Nathan Karns would all be possibilities for the fifth starter spot, and Detwiler could end up in the bullpen. That was interesting. Karns was not terribly impressive during his call up last year and could not hold onto the starting job and was sent back to the minors. Taylor Jordan did fine, and Tanner Roark was sensational. To indicate that Karns had a chance to get the nod over Detwiler is a signal of some sort.
There has been precious little information released about Detwiler’s rehab since he was injured. There certainly have not been numerous glowing reports about how well Ross is doing or speculation about him being ready to start in 2014. Instead what we are hearing is that putting Detwiler in the bullpen is under consideration.
All of this leads inquiring minds to wonder–can Detwiler recover from his herniated disc injury to be an effective pitcher for the Nats in 2014? This will be an open question until spring training begins. It is clear that the organization does not know the answer to this question either.