The Washington Times - March 8, 2012, 07:00PM

VIERA, Fla. — Each day, Ross Detwiler walks the delicate line between the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation and their bullpen. The Nationals feel he can be the starting pitcher to headline a ticket, a power lefty who performed so well in September he looked poised for a spot in the Nationals’ opening day rotation for the first time since they drafted him in 2007.

And yet the talent they crowded their rotation with this offseason all-but closed that door.


Last spring, Detwiler was one of the Nationals’ best pitchers. He did everything possible to make the team out of camp but couldn’t get rid of his one remaining minor league option. It was a numbers game, he’s since said repeatedly, and he was forced to earn his way back to the major leagues.

That option is gone this year so, Detwiler figures, one way or another they’ll find a place for him.

“They’ll let me know at the end of spring,” he said Thursday after three dominant innings in relief of Edwin Jackson. “I have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Such is life right now for Detwiler with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson, Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order for the Nationals’ rotation spots. The fact that he’s had success coming out of the bullpen in long relief at the major league level, doesn’t exactly help his chances of avoiding that spot as the pitching staff bubbles over.

Detwiler is realistic when discussing his place in the Nationals’ pitching corps right now. “As long as I’m in a big league uniform, I don’t really care,” he says. But then he looks down the row of lockers to his left inside the Nationals’ clubhouse, looks at the nameplates of Jackson and Gonzalez — who combined for 401 2/3 innings in 2011 — and at that of Zimmermann’s, who’s expected to throw 200-plus, and knows that a role in the bullpen as a long man will most likely never be all that pronounced. 

“Being a long reliever on this team is not going to be very fun,” he admitted. “There’s not going to be very many innings but some people have their roles. My time will come.”

The Nationals starting pitching situation is one that will take time to gain more clarity. The option of a trade is always there but general manager Mike Rizzo has made it clear that he doesn’t look at the Nationals’ bevy of viable starters as a “surplus,” and doesn’t plan to give any away for little return.

If and when the Nationals need a sixth starter — and they will need one at some point — Detwiler would likely be the first man up for the job. When Strasburg hits his innings limit later in the season, right now Detwiler figures to transition easily into that spot in the Nationals’ rotation. 

Really, though, the role he ends up in is completely out of Detwiler’s hands. So he shrugs his shoulders and lets the question roll off his back. For now, all he can do is pitch.

“Whatever,” he said. “It’s all pitching once you get down to it.”