The Washington Times - July 24, 2011, 03:21AM

 

LOS ANGELES — The role Ross Detwiler is in for the Nationals is a new one. The former first-round pick is not truly a starter but not entirely a reliever. Even he has admitted that he’s not always sure what his schedule is on most days, just going with the flow and doing as told as he adjusts to being the swing man in the Nationals bullpen.

But Saturday night in Los Angeles, after three putrid innings of work from Tom Gorzelanny where he nearly blew leads of both three and then four runs, respectively, Detwiler did everything the Nationals could have asked. In a 7-6 walk-off loss, one that secured a losing road trip for the Nationals, Detwiler turned in 2 ⅔ innings of scoreless relief. He held at bay an offense that looked poised to break out prior to his entrance and he was the lone bright spot for the Nationals pitching staff on a night to forget for most.

“Det came in and did a heck of a job,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “I thought we’d have a heck of a shot to win that ballgame… Detwiler did an outstanding job, came in and gave us a chance to win.”

Detwiler, a former first-round draft pick, has spent the majority of his professional career working through things. First it was the Nationals farm system, then it was a hip injury, then reworking his delivery a little after his hip returned to full health. But since getting his first call to the major leagues of the season just before the All-Star break, Detwiler has stuck.

His first appearance was a spot start, necessitated by a doubleheader the weekend before, in which he tossed 5 ⅓ innings and allowed two earned runs in a win over the Chicago Cubs. But with Johnson in need of a second left-hander and a long man in his bullpen, he opted to keep Detwiler around instead of shuffling him back to Triple-A. He would pitch out of the bullpen on a starter’s schedule, he told him, and he’d handle him carefully.

Detwiler has made four appearances to this point, three of them in a relief role and never on fewer than three days of rest. It’s somewhat uncharted territory for him, but to this point, he’s excelling. His numbers are good: 2.70 ERA as a reliever, just five hits allowed in 6 2/3 innings of work and only two earned runs.

“I just wanted to go out there and make quality pitches,” Detwiler said Saturday. “I haven’t come in with anybody on base so it’s just like I’m starting, I’m still in that mentality. I think that’s going to change once I come in with somebody on base.”

Change is coming to the Nationals pitching staff. If all goes well for Chieng-Ming Wang in what lines up to be his final rehab start Sunday night with Triple-A Syracuse, he will need to be added to the staff on July 27 and he’s expected to slot into the Nationals rotation. Barring a trade — and using a lot of speculation — that could force left-hander Tom Gorzelanny to the Nationals bullpen, serving in a role not unlike the one Detwiler is filling right now. That would leave Detwiler as the odd-man out and perhaps headed back to Triple-A.

A trade that affects the Nationals pitching staff could obviously change all of that, but regardless, there will be some shuffling soon.

The good news, for Detwiler, is that he’s proven a few times that he can succeed up here. Getting a 1-2-3 inning against Aaron Miles, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in his first frame Saturday night was another example of that much.

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