Monday morning, while the rest of his Washington teammates enjoy their first off-day of the spring, Ross Detwiler will board a plane for Phoenix and begin his transition from Nationals camp to Team USA.
Detwiler, who pitched two innings Sunday in his final tune-up before the World Baseball Classic, left with mixed emotions. He is elated to be a member of Team USA and excited for what’s to come in the tournament, but he understands what he’s leaving.
“I think it’s going to be for a good cause but you never really want to leave teammates behind,” Detwiler said. “It’ll be a lot of fun. I’m pretty excited about going and being able to represent my country.
“The overall goal is to win the World Series. Gold [in the WBC] would be nice but we have a lot of work to do here.”
The Nationals will keep tabs on Detwiler while he’s away. He is scheduled to pitch again Saturday, following Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong to the mound against Italy, and the Nationals have a firm plan in place with USA manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Greg Maddux.
“That’s the only reason they’re letting me go is because they have a plan and they’ve worked closely with all the coaches over there,” Detwiler said. “I feel like I’m in good hands. I’m pretty excited to get going.”
Detwiler on Sunday used 51 pitches (31 strikes) in two innings against the St. Louis Cardinals. He allowed a run on four hits and struck out four on a cold, windy day at Space Coast Stadium. He will likely be held to a 65-pitch limit in the WBC, so the Nationals were pleased with the base he has at this point.
Ramos gets green light
There are no more hurdles to clear, no more tests to pass. Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos on Sunday got his first at-bat since May 12 and he will start at catcher in Tuesday’s game against the Houston Astros.
Ramos batted twice in Sunday’s 7-6 victory over the Cardinals, grounding out to third the first time up before hitting a double to lead off the ninth inning. Sandy Leon pinch-ran for him and scored the winning run later in the inning.
When Ramos returned to the dugout, his teammates had one message for him: Welcome back.
“That’s a big step for me today,” Ramos said. “Now I’m very excited. I want to be behind the plate soon.”
After a long, arduous rehab process, Ramos was cleared to try sliding Saturday. When that went well, Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih examined Ramos and conferred with Ramos’ Colorado-based surgeon, Dr. J. Richard Steadman. Together, they gave him the green light.
“I’m happy,” Ramos said. “Now I feel like a ballplayer again.”
Ramos will catch three innings Tuesday and get more at-bats. While Kurt Suzuki is still expected to start the season as the Nationals’ primary catcher, Ramos’ workload will increase as the season approaches.
Nationals cut four from camp
The Nationals made their first round of cuts Sunday afternoon, re-assigning left-handers Bill Bray, Brandon Mann and Will Ohman, along with right-hander Tanner Roark, to minor league camp.
“I’ve just got too many pitchers and I can’t get them all the work they need,” Johnson said. “It’s that simple.”
Bray, however, could find himself back on the major league side eventually and Johnson said he could still be in contention for a spot on the Opening Day roster should an injury or something unforeseen arise.
Injuries in 2012 forced Bray to alter his mechanics and the lefty has been working this spring to return his arm slot to where it was in the past, more parallel with his head than up behind it. The Nationals felt it was best for him to continue to work on that in a less stressful environment and with more innings available in which to do it.
Bray does not have a spring training opt-out in his minor league contract, but he does have one that he could activate later in the season.
Garcia has torn tendon
Christian Garcia has an official diagnosis for the pain and tightness he’s been feeling in his right forearm/wrist area: a partially torn tendon.
The right-hander will be held off from all activity for at least another few days to a week. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to resume full activity. Douoguih told Garcia this weekend that they will wait until he is entirely pain-free before they clear him. That could put his availability for the Opening Day roster in jeopardy.
Around the horn
Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ designated hitter Sunday, was 1 for 3 in his first game of the spring as he continues his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery. … Henry Rodriguez will throw live batting practice Tuesday and the Nationals hope to get him in a game by Friday.