Ross Detwiler threw enough pitches to account for about three innings of work on Wednesday afternoon, and the next step for the Washington Nationals left-hander will be to travel to Viera, Fla., on Monday and pitch in instructional league games.
Detwiler, who has been out since July 4 with a herniated disc in his back, has been working hard to return to the Nationals — even if only in a relief role — for the last six weeks. But the calendar may be working against him. Manager Davey Johnson said Wednesday Detwiler may not have enough time to pitch in the major leagues again this season.
“If (going to Florida) is the plan, he might as well stay down there,” Johnson said he told pitching coach Steve McCatty. “I don’t see it. He’d need to have four days off and then there’s only one game or two games left. I don’t see the point in coming out and having him for one game, probably. But that’s going to be a decision made down the road.”
Johnson said Detwiler looked good in his early-afternoon session, throwing his fastball, curveball and changeup with ease and significant velocity. In the instructional league, Detwiler will face the Nationals’ minor leaguers.
The Nationals have not yet decided if they would like Detwiler to pitch in one of the caribbean winter leagues, though Johnson said the left-hander’s preference would be to avoid it.
The Nationals simply want to get Detwiler enough work to be sure that he is past the injury, and won’t have to deal with it when he arrives at spring training next February. And they want to have several questions answered before that time comes.
“To me, it’s the number of times you post,” Johnson said on what his barometer would be for Detwiler’s health. “I had a feeling some of this stuff started coming on him after the WBC. And then I think it was bothering him two or three starts into the season, and then I think it got worse and finally got aggravated out in L.A. It got a little twisted. I think we need to see if this injury is going to resurface. As many starts as he can get, appearances, is I think important. He needs to be reliable next year.
“I know he doesn’t want to (pitch in winter ball). Maybe he can get enough work where the club and the medical staff will be convinced that we’re by that. But the injury is such that there’s no easy medical cure, so you’re just concerned because there is a little problem in there, if that’s going to get exacerbated and come back. That’s the whole issue. Is it innings? Is it times he gets up? Or what? Can he aggravate it? It’s going to be a tough decision.”
While time may well be running short on Detwiler’s efforts to return to the major leagues this season, there is the wild card (no pun intended) of whether or not the Nationals’ final push for the playoffs works out. Then, Johnson said, they’d discuss Detwiler again.
“We’ll just see what happens on Monday and we’ll see where we’re at,” Johnson said.