Detwiler is coming off a back strain injury that kept him on the shelf for much of the 2013 season. He only pitched in 13 games, giving up over 4.5 runs per nine innings. Even with the Nationals offense that isn’t going to win you many games. That could have been due to the back strain as well, but he still has to be better.
Giving up the long ball has never been the issue for Detwiler, he just gives up a lot of hits. Giving up a lot of hits puts him in the stretch a lot more often than you would like. Those hits lead to runs and Detwiler has struggled leaving runners on base. All of this will come into account while analyzing him this Spring.
You don’t expect too much out of a fifth starter, he is there to eat up innings and try to keep you in as many games as possible, without having to use the bullpen too much. If the Nationals can find the right guy to put there, they will definitely have the best rotation in baseball.
Detwiler had his best season in 2012, pitching over 150 innings for the first time, while posting a 1.8 WAR. He has been between the bullpen and starting rotation, so even if he doesn’t get the fifth spot in the rotation, he can be a long relief arm out of the bullpen.
Does Detwiler deserve a shot at the fifth spot? Certainly. Do I think he will win it, not necessarily. There are two other pitchers that really impressed last season while Detwiler was on the DL. I will analyze them in the coming days. Coming off of the back injury, there is a lot of risk for a low reward type player. Do the Nationals even want to test putting him in that role if it is uncertain that he can succeed? Those are the questions that have to be answered in Spring Training.
Detwiler is going to have to have a great Spring in order to earn this spot. Coming off an injury is never easy, but in this case, it is in the case of him earning a spot in a rotation that can be stamped as one of the best in baseball. If he can prove himself, great, if not he is still a valuable arm in the bullpen. The Nationals have a lot of depth and they shouldn’t be afraid to use it.