Back to the Grind

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After competing in a postseason type of atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic the last couple of weeks, Nationals pitchers Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez returned to the much more low-key confines of Viera, rejoining their teammates in Spring Training this week. Detwiler made his first spring start since the tournament on Sunday, bringing a sharp changeup, as well as his trademark, self-deprecating wit along with him to Lakeland as he squared off with the Tigers.

Despite the change in venue, Detwiler used the same approach for this outing as he did for his shining WBC moment, in which he shut down Team Italy over four scoreless frames to help Team USA advance to the second round.

“I don’t think it was that different,” said the southpaw of the two environments. “I had the same mentality to just go out there, throw strikes and get ahead.”

Detwiler looked like his old self in his return to the Nationals rotation Sunday.

Detwiler looked like his old self in his return to the Nationals rotation Sunday.

Limited to 56 pitches over four innings, the lefty allowed just three hits and a walk, surrendering a single run on a towering home run to Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter in the first inning.

“My first outing in Spring Training I faced the Braves and their Opening Day lineup,” he explained, noting that he has run into a tough string of opponents already in spring. “You don’t want to take any less intensity out there or they’re going to hit a ball right back at you. Or over the tiki hut in left.”

Detwiler went on to throw 15 more pitches in the bullpen, as he stretches himself out for his first start of the season, likely in Cincinnati – a well-known hitter’s haven – on the team’s first road trip. Good thing he’s getting his practice in now in tough pitching environments.

“That’s a ridiculous lineup,” he said of the Tigers, who rolled out nearly all of their starters on Sunday. “You’ve got to focus on keeping the ball down, or you’re going to have to throw with an L-screen out there.”

For those unfamiliar with the term, an L-screen is the protective barrier from behind which coaches throw batting practice to the players. Hopefully he won’t need any such equipment should he run into them again when the two teams meet during the regular season, May 7-8 in D.C.

“I’m going to throw to the American League the same way I throw to the National League, I just won’t have to hit in half the games,” he explained, as the only difference in his approach. After a pause, he quipped, “That’s a good thing.”

While Detwiler was out facing the defending American League Champions, Gonzalez took his day off to head to Disney World. He threw on the Minor League side on Monday as he works his way back into the rotation.

With Detwiler and Gonzalez’s return, and with the starters scheduled to play more innings both at home and on the road this week, it was time on Monday morning to make the next round of cuts in camp. The Nationals optioned right-handed pitchers Erik Davis, Yunesky Maya and Ryan Perry, catcher Jhonatan Solano, infielder Chris Marrero and outfielder Corey Brown to Syracuse and reassigned right-handed pitcher Ross Ohlendorf and infielder Zach Walters to Minor League camp. The Spring Training roster now stands at 34 players heading into play against the Tigers once again on Monday.

Nationals Lineup:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Ramos C

9. Zimmermann RHP

Results:

2/23 @ New York (NL) – L, 5-3

2/24 vs. Miami – T, 2-2

2/25 @ New York (NL) – W, 6-4

2/26 @ Atlanta – L, 9-5

2/27 vs. Miami – L, 5-1

2/28 vs. New York (NL) – T, 4-4

3/1 @ Atlanta – W, 6-5

3/2 @ St. Louis – W, 6-2

3/3 vs. St. Louis – W, 7-6

3/5 vs. Houston – W, 7-1

3/6 @ Philadelphia – L, 6-3

3/7 @ Houston – L, 4-2

3/8 vs. Cardinals – L, 16-10

3/9 vs. Marlins – W, 8-7

3/10 @ Detroit – L, 2-1

3/11 vs. Atlanta – L, 7-2

3/13 SS vs. New York (NL) – W, 8-5

3/13 SS @ Houston – W, 9-7

3/14 vs. Houston – W, 6-3

3/15 @ St. Louis – L, 5-1

3/16 vs. Houston – L, 4-2

3/17 @ Detroit – W, 12-10

Overall Record: 10-10-2

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