LAKELAND, Fla. – There is still competition for the fifth spot in the Nationals starting rotation, but the person many thought was the odds-on favorite to win the job, Ross Detwiler, will not be one of the contenders.
“We’ve ask Ross to start our season in the bullpen,” said Nationals manager Matt Williams. “We feel like it’s a good move for our team. He provides something special out of the bullpen for us.”
There was talk after the end of last season of putting Detwiler in the pen, but as it got closer to spring training, the feeling was it was his job to lose.
His spring has been less than stellar. Opponents have hit .412 against him and he has allowed five earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. While Williams said Detwiler was disappointed with the decision, he sees this as a plus for the entire pitching staff.
“I don’t know if anybody would be happy with something like that,” he said. “We don’t feel like it’s a demotion of any sort, we just feel like we are a better team with him coming out of our bullpen. He offers something that is special–power lefty, mid-90’s lefty.”
This move means the competition comes down to Tanner Roark, who was scheduled to pitch in Lakeland against the Tigers Monday but will throw in a minor league game on Tuesday, Taylor Jordan and Chris Young who has also been thrown into the mix.
Roark is 1-0 this spring with a 4.50 ERA in eight innings while Jordan is 1-1 with an 6.50 ERA in 10 innings.
“It’s still competition out there and I am just going to go out there and do what I know I can do,” Roark said. “I need to pitch with confidence, get outs and throw strikes and let everything else fall into place and not worry about who I’m competing against.”
Williams cautioned after Jordan’s last start — where he gave up four runs on seven hits to the Tigers — to not let the numbers tell the whole story. Williams attributed the tough outing to Jordan not using his fast ball enough because everything he got beat with was on breaking balls.
Williams still plan on announcing his Opening Day starter on Wednesday.
The Nationals trimmed their roster by six players on Monday by optioning outfielder’s Eury Perez and Steven Souza Jr. to Triple-A Syracuse and left-hander Sammy Solis to Double-A Harrisburg.
The Nats also re-assigned infielder Mike Fontenot, outfielder Brian Goodwin and catcher Koyie Hill to the Minor League camp.
Souza impressed this spring by hitting .355 with a team-leading three homers, three doubles, a triple and five RBI. He hit two against the Astros’ in Kissimmee on Sunday in a Nats split squad game.
Skipper Matt Williams has been impressed with Souza’s spring.
“I like his tenacity and the way he goes about it,” he said. “He plays with passion and fire and he got a chance to play a little bit and showed some things. I told him I was pleased with the way it went and how he performed and how he went about it and asked him to continue to do that and I know he will.”
Solis, who has missed most of the spring with back issues, pitched four innings in two games and did not give up a run.
Craig Heist is a contributing writer for 106.7 the Fan. Follow him on Twitter.