LAKELAND, Fla. — Ross Detwiler’s reintroduction to the Grapefruit League, after spending the better part of the last two weeks at the World Baseball Classic and pitching for Team USA, wasn’t exactly easy.
Detwiler made the three-hour trek up to Viera from Miami early on Saturday morning and Sunday morning he was on a bus headed two hours east to Lakeland for his first game action in a week.
All that was waiting for him was a good portion of the Detroit Tigers’ ‘A’ lineup that started with Austin Jackson and continued with Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.
“That’s a ridiculous lineup,” Detwiler said after he pitched four innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and one walk with one strikeout.
“You’ve got to focus on keeping the ball down or you’re going to have throw with an ‘L’ screen out there.”
Interestingly, Detwiler said it was the only pitch he got down in the first inning that Hunter hit out of the stadium to left field. That was really the only blemish on his day, though.
After four innings and 57 pitches, pitching coach Steve McCatty decided that was enough for Detwiler after all the travel and his unusual routine the last few days. Detwiler said he felt strong so he went to the bullpen to throw 15 more pitches and finish his day.
Detwiler will have two more starts down at spring training to continue to build up his pitch count, and he’ll likely have to throw a simulated game or an extended side session when the team gets to D.C. in order to be ready to take the fifth spot in the Nationals’ regular-season rotation.
In the meantime, what he was most pleased about Sunday was the quality of changeups he was able to throw to the Tigers’ hitters.
“I thought I threw some good changeups today, which I’ve never done in my career,” Detwiler said, a bit sarcastically. “It was good to get a few swings and misses off it today.”
Detwiler has been focusing on the pitch this spring, he said, changing his grip a bit so that he can throw it more like a fastball. The results have been there for him and it’ll be interesting to see how often he utilizes it during the season, as manager Davey Johnson has been on him to incorporate his curveball and changeup more. He threw his changeup only seven percent of the time in 2012, according to fangraphs.com
“No doubt about it (his changeup has improved),” Johnson said. “I like everything I saw.”