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Sunday was the latest example of how the Nationals' bullpen may be a bit off-kilter as they pass the quarter mark of the 2013 season. The personnel is exactly the same as it was when the Nationals opened the season, but the way they've been used hasn't always been consistent — and neither has the performance.
Ross Detwiler went five innings and gave up three runs and six hits while walking two and striking out five as the Nationals lost for the fourth time in six games.
In a 5-2 loss, the Nationals' bid for a sweep of another National League contender fell victim to singles, some just out of reach, and a hard-throwing rookie left-hander.
Tuesday's loss was Washington's fifth straight at home and the team that started the season 7-2 is now 10-10. Yes, indeed, it remains very early in the season. But early is about half done and the Nats are in a funk.
If the season ended Thursday, the Nationals even with all their "problems" would qualify for the playoffs. Which sounds just as stupid to say now as it does to say the season is already off the rails.
Since the Nationals moved Detwiler back into the starting rotation for good last June, and including the playoffs, he has posted a 2.97 ERA in 121 1/3 innings of work.
Faced with a choice between two No. 1-capable catchers, Nats manager Davey Johnson made an unusual call: Let's use both.
For a roster that was all but set from the outset of camp, the decision on whether J.C. Romero or Henry Rodriguez will get the Nationals' final bullpen spot, it seems, will come down to the spring's final day.
Ross Detwiler turned in a superb four-inning relief outing Saturday night to help Team USA beat Italy in the first round of the World Baseball Classic. "It's a dream come true to play for your country," he said.
A lot of this spring for Dan Haren is about acclimating himself and adjusting to new things. A new team, new facilities, a new league and new catchers. Then there are the new things he's trying to add to a repertoire that has made him one of the most reliable starting pitchers in the major leagues over the course of his career.
The U.S. (1-1) meets Canada (1-1) in the final game of Pool D play on Sunday with the winner advancing to the second round.
Monday morning, while the rest of his Washington teammates enjoy their first off-day of the spring, Detwiler will board a plane for Phoenix and begin his transition from Nationals camp to Team USA.
Young didn't sign with the Washington Nationals until Feb. 21, nine days after pitchers and catchers had reported to camp and begun the slow process of building toward the season. So the 6-foot-10 right-hander is a bit behind the rest of the group.
"I don't think he ever has a bad day," reliever Christian Garcia said on a recent spring morning. "He's just so nice."
The Nationals' doctors won't clear Ramos to play in games, even as a designated hitter, until he is cleared to slide. Ramos has always tucked his right knee under his left leg when he slides into bases. Now the plan is to try to teach him to tuck his left leg instead.
"It's kind of weird, but it was the same exact pitch on both home runs and it's what ended up beating me," Detwiler said. "I tried to get a fastball to the outside corner and they both cut back over the plate and their guys hit them, which is what they're supposed to do and what they get paid for."
Manager Davey Johnson and Detwiler agreed he wasn't at his sharpest, but after a terrific string of starts to open the season, pitching coach Steve McCatty and catcher Kurt Suzuki implored Detwiler to stick with his strengths: pounding the strike zone and peppering hitters with his two fastballs.