There are plenty of reasons why the Nationals’ series finale tonight against the Phillies carries very little importance in the grand scheme of things. The Nats, obviously, have nothing to play for (other than trying to avoid the designation as the worst team in baseball). The Phillies are sort of in a similar situation. Of course, they’re in first place and have all but wrapped up the division title.
Here, though, is one good reason to care about what happens tonight: Ross Detwiler. The rookie left-hander is back in the rotation after two months at Class AAA Syracuse and then a brief stint in Washington’s bullpen. This is an important start for him.
Detwiler, the organization’s top draft pick in 2007, has had quite an interesting season when you break it down. He began the year at Class AA Harrisburg for the first time, and though he went 0-3, he posted a 2.96 ERA in six starts. That earned him a promotion all the way to the majors when the Nats had a flurry of pitching injuries. Detwiler’s numbers up here in 10 starts (0-5, 6.40 ERA) don’t look good on the surface. But when you look at them individually, you realize he had four good starts and six really bad ones. He also wasn’t helped at all by his lineup.
Detwiler was sent down at the All-Star break, this time to pitch at Class AAA Syracuse for the first time, and he responded well. In 10 starts, he went 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA. That earned him a September call-up.
So what now? He gets the start tonight against the Phillies (a tough assignment, to be sure). He’ll probably get one more start (perhaps Wednesday against the Dodgers) and then will be shut down having thrown 140 total innings or so for the season.
Will these two starts determine whether Detwiler is in the picture for a rotation spot next spring? Probably not. The Nats have a decent idea what this guy is made of. But if he looks particularly sharp (or particularly poor) that will be the lasting impression the organization has of him throughout the winter. I do think there’s something to be said for remembering a pitcher’s most-recent outings. For the next 4 1/2 months, we’ll be remembering Detwiler based on these last few starts.
You can bet he would like us to remember them as successful outings.