Nationals manager Davey Johnson had seen enough of Chien-Ming Wang’s struggles Tuesday night to know, one day later, that it was time to make a change in the rotation. Ross Detwiler will start Sunday in Baltimore and Wang will be moved to the bullpen to work on his delivery and mechanics.
The move comes on the heels of Wang’s worst start this season, a 3 1/3-inning outing in which he needed 77 pitches to allow five runs. He was followed to the mound by Detwiler, who then threw 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief and allowed only one baserunner on a hit by pitch.
It was less than a month ago that the Nationals made the decision to move Detwiler out of the rotation and into the bullpen with Wang returning to the team healthy. With the Nationals needing to keep pace as the National League East’s first-place team, they could no longer afford to allow Wang time to work out his delivery issues in the rotation while Detwiler, looking stronger than ever, sat in the bullpen.
“If you had compared [Detwiler’s] performance last night with his last two outings, it’s a totally different pitcher,” Johnson said. “He was dominating last night, very aggressive after the hitters. And his last two starts, he was kind of pitching defensively, not attacking the hitter. I think the stint in the bullpen, if anything, helped him.”
The hope is that Wang, who had a 6.62 ERA in his four starts, will be able to work through his delivery issues — where his body moves faster than his arm and causes him to lose his command — while in the bullpen and, eventually, he will find himself back in the rotation. With Stephen Strasburg on an innings limit, it is almost certain that both Wang and Detwiler will find themselves in the rotation at some point this season.
“I really like where his arm strength is at, but I need him to get back comfortable,” Johnson said. “I was hoping he could work it out starting, but in conversations with [pitching coach Steve McCatty] I think maybe it would be best to see if he can’t work it out with less stress on him.”