Results tagged ‘ World Baseball Classic ’

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

Nationals and Americans

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It is said that 90 percent of baseball is pitching. Abiding by that adage, Team USA stands just one win from the championship round of the World Baseball Classic thanks in large part to a pair of stellar performances, both by members of the Washington Nationals starting rotation.

After Ross Detwiler kept the Americans’ hopes alive by closing out Italy over four scoreless frames on Saturday night, it was Gio Gonzalez’s turn in his hometown of Miami on Tuesday. Pitching in front of a raucous crowd of 32,872, he pumped fastballs, spun curveballs and pulled the string on his ever-improving changeup to befuddle a Puerto Rican squad full of Major Leaguers. By the time Gonzalez was done, just three opposing batters had reached safely in five shutout frames, with five strikeouts to boot. Team USA went on to win by a 7-1 final, with Gonzalez the victor.

Gonzalez dominated in front of his hometown crowd.

Gonzalez dominated in front of his hometown crowd.

Think about it this way: if Detwiler and Gonzalez had pitched their nine combined innings in the same game, they would have collaborated on a four-hit shutout of the international field with a single walk and eight strikeouts.

“This was a blessing to be alongside some of the greatest,” said Gonzalez of his first opportunity to represent Team USA. “To say that I pitched in front of my home crowd and to win, it’s truly a dream.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of Gonzalez’s outing was his pinpoint control, which led to 48 strikes in his 69 total pitches. That’s a 70 percent strike rate, compared with the 62 percent he posted last year, lower than every other member of the Washington rotation (Cliff Lee led MLB at 70.5 percent). If nothing else, it’s an encouraging sign for Nationals fans looking to see what Gonzalez can do to build off his 21-win season a year ago.

“We were right on the same page, every pitch,” said Gonzalez of his interactions with his catcher, Joe Mauer, whom he said he shook off only once all game. “I felt confident enough to go out and pound the strike zone.”

Team USA will get Wednesday off – as Puerto Rico and Italy will battle to stay alive in the tournament – before taking on the Dominican Republic on Thursday. While that would be Detwiler’s throw day, he is unsure as of yet whether or not he will be called upon in that game. Gonzalez, meanwhile, would not start again until the championship round, should Team USA advance to San Francisco.

Inter-National Flavor

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As the Nationals enjoy just their second off day of the spring on Tuesday, several members of the team are still hard at work, competing on a much grander stage. The second round of the World Baseball Classic is underway, with the opening games of Pool 2 beginning today in Miami.

The Dominican Republic squares off with Italy at 1:05 p.m. ET, while Team USA will send Gio Gonzalez to the mound against Puerto Rico in the split-doubleheader finale at 8:05 p.m. live on MLB Network. Of course, the United States might not be playing in this round at all if weren’t for another Washington National coming to the rescue.

Ross Detwiler's huge outing against Italy was instrumental in Team USA advancing.

Ross Detwiler’s huge outing against Italy was instrumental in Team USA advancing.

After dropping its opening game to Mexico, 5-2 in Phoenix, Team USA found itself in an early 2-0 hole in a win-or-go-home game against Italy. The offense finally came through, and manager Joe Torre handed the ball to Ross Detwiler with a 6-2 lead in the sixth inning.

“It’s amazing, playing for your country,” said Detwiler of his pressure-packed outing. “We’ve played some pretty close games. Everybody’s putting their heart and soul into it. Seeing all the fans coming out and chanting ‘U-S-A’ and everything, it really brings chills.”

Detwiler certainly rose to the challenge. After reigning NL Cy Young R.A. Dickey was touched up in the loss to Mexico, Ryan Vogelsong struggled early in his start against Italy before giving way to the bullpen. Detwiler entered and mowed down the competition, allowing just a single and a walk over four scoreless frames, striking out three to record a 12-out save, the first of his career. Another comeback win against Canada in the final game of pool play on Sunday ensured the Americans would play on.

Of course, Detwiler is certainly accustomed – perhaps uniquely so – to pitching meaningful games in March.

“I had to compete for a job the last few years, so it’s not really any earlier than I’m used to,” he said of bringing competitive fire to spring starts. “I’ve never had a Spring Training where I just come in and take it easy and just get ready for the season. I’ve had to win a job in the past. I think that helped me out this year.”

Gonzalez and Ryan Vogelsong chat after playing catch on Monday.

Gonzalez and Ryan Vogelsong chat after playing catch on Monday.

Now it’s Gonzalez’s turn to shine, in the national spotlight during primetime, against a Puerto Rican team that features MLB stars like Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Angel Pagan. Gonzalez did not join the team for the first round, but watched every game on television, including Sunday’s bout with Canada from Flanagan’s, a favorite spot in his hometown of Hialeah.

Upon arriving at Monday’s workout at Marlins Park, Gonzalez immediately sought out his Washington rotation-mate.

“The first thing Ross did to me was give me a big old hug, big pat on the back,” said Gonzalez of his reunion with Detwiler. Gonzalez praised the fellow lefty on his outing against the Italians. “The way he went out there and performed, I think he set the tone. He looked really good.”

Detwiler expects nothing less of Gonzalez, who won 21 games and finished third in the National League Cy Young race last season.

“I think Gio’s gonna be just fine,” Detwiler said with a laugh. “He knows how to go out there and compete and win. And obviously in his home city he’s going to do well. He’s going to bring a big crowd out here, and hopefully they’re chanting ‘U-S-A.’”

Team USA battled a loud, pro-Mexico crowd in their contest in Arizona, and there is sure to be plenty of Puerto Rico fans in attendance on Tuesday night in Miami. But if last season was any indication, Gonzalez alone may well help mobilize the local community in favor of the red, white and blue.

“The last time I was here it was over 600 tickets,” said Gonzalez of the purchases by family and friends for when the Nationals took on the Marlins last season. “I think all of Hialeah came.”

Regardless of Team USA’s results in Miami, one Nationals player has already cemented his spot in the semifinals. Roger Bernadina’s Netherlands squad continued its Cinderella run with an upset of Team Cuba in Japan and will join the Japanese and two semifinalists from Pool 2 in San Francisco.

The Nationals are also represented at the minor league level in the WBC by Mike Costanzo and Matt Torra (Italy), Adrian Nieto (Spain; eliminated), Randolph Oduber (Netherlands), Eury Perez (Dominican Republic) and Jimmy Van Ostrand (Canada; eliminated).

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: Inter-Nationals

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Hello everyone.

Things here in camp could not be better. I think that Spring Training has picked up its pace. Everyone is getting their scheduled innings and at-bats. Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson could not be more pleased with what they are seeing.

One National who should be extremely pleased with himself is Ross Detwiler, who tossed 4.0 scoreless innings in Team USA’s win-or-go-home victory on Saturday against Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Just like last October, with his team’s season in the balance, Ross put forth his finest performance and picked up the first save of his career.

I wonder if Ross’s mental preparation for that game included thoughts about all of the brave U.S. service men and women he met during the USO Tour he took with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and teammate Craig Stammen back in December. It would not surprise me, as Ross is that type of individual.

Gio Gonzalez is the most popular man in Miami heading into his Team USA debut tomorrow.

Gio Gonzalez is the most popular man in Miami heading into his Team USA debut tomorrow.

Gio Gonzalez left Viera yesterday and joins Ross and his new teammates for the first time today. He’ll get the starting nod tomorrow night as Team USA faces Puerto Rico in Miami (8 p.m. on MLB Network). Gio will be challenged, as the Puerto Rican lineup will likely include the likes of Yadir Molina, Carlos Beltran, Angel Pagan, Mike Aviles and Alex Rios.

Of course, we are equally as proud of Roger Bernadina (Netherlands), Eury Perez (Dominican Republic), Mike Costanzo (Italy), Randolph Oduber (Netherlands), Jimmy Van Ostrand (Canada), Adrian Nieto (Spain) and Matt Torra (Italy) for their contributions for their respective WBC teams/countries. I’d say it is fitting that our organization from Nation’s Capital is well represented in this global event.

Two position players that warrant special notice are a new-look Danny Espinosa (.345 batting average) and Anthony Rendon (.296, three doubles, three home runs). Judging by their Grapefruit League performances, I feel confident that both will enjoy productive seasons.

Last week, I was pleased to be able to share dinner with Astros manager Bo Porter. We are so proud of Bo. Honestly, he was made for this job.

As Bo explained, they are in the midst of implementing a new culture there. His club will face some challenges, not the least of which include Houston’s move to the American League and stiff AL West competition from the A’s, Angels, Mariners and Rangers. I wish Bo and his Astros nothing but the best.

Of course, Bo’s departure created a well-deserved opportunity for first base coach/outfield instructor Tony Tarasco in D.C. Tony’s transition has been seamless as he has preexisting relationships with all of our homegrown players from his days as our outfield/baserunning coordinator. I know he is also thrilled to reunite with Davey, for whom he played for in Baltimore.

As always, I have enjoyed the interaction with fans down here at Space Coast Stadium. For so many reasons, there is genuine optimism in the air among our fan base. And the sheer number of our fans down here is up compared to previous springs. I think this bodes well for a busy and boisterous ’13 campaign at Nationals Park.

Speaking of which, with Opening Day just three weeks away, reports are that everything at Nationals Park is rounding into proper shape. Our dedicated staff is putting the finishing touches on various projects and polishing up the place. Everything will be ready for our final exhibition game on Friday, March 29 against the New York Yankees. The cherry blossoms may even be in bloom in left field.

Until we blog again …

Launched Into Orbit

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This year’s Grapefruit League schedule pits the Nationals against the Houston Astros six times, providing a chance for former Washington third base coach and new Astros skipper Bo Porter to reunite and reminisce with his old players. They did just that on Tuesday at Space Coast Stadium, both sides praising one another as details emerged, such as the book club Porter orchestrates that counts over 20 members of the Nationals squad as members.

It’s pleasant to see the mutual professional respect between the coach and his former players, one made easier to show thanks to the exhibition nature of Spring Training. It is also, in all likelihood, the only chance the two will have to see each other this season.

The Astros have reintroduced Orbit for the 2013 season.

The Astros have reintroduced Orbit for the 2013 season.

See, the Astros are moving from the National League Central to the American League West this season, giving baseball an even 15 teams per league and five per division. The teams will not square off in the regular season until next year, when the NL East will be slated to face the AL West as part of Interleague Play.

As part of the move, the Astros have changed their uniform scheme to a retro navy and orange look, and have brought back their mascot Orbit, who, according to the team website, “hitched a ride on the space shuttle Discovery to visit his home back in the Grand Slam Galaxy” following the 1999 season. That brings us to the teams’ second meeting on Thursday, for which the furry green space cadet was in attendance.

Following the bottom of the fifth of a scoreless contest on Thursday, Orbit trotted out onto the field to help the promo team toss T-shirts into the crowd, but on his way from the gate by the home dugout onto the grass around home plate, he let his weight get out in front of him and he tripped, stumbling and falling to the turf. Upon gracefully picking himself back up, he was handed the T-shirt air cannon, from which he promptly fired a rolled-up souvenir a clear 20 feet over the roof of Osceola County Stadium and into the parking lot.

It was a moment of comedy, but also a reminder, in the midst of a fairly quiet and pedestrian game, of just how trivial the results of Spring Training really are.

Yes, Gio Gonzalez got a solid three innings of work in, limited under 50 pitches (he threw 42) based on World Baseball Classic guidelines for those already committed to pitch for the team. He tossed 23 more in the bullpen to get a little more stretched out before heading to Miami next Tuesday for his WBC debut.

But the biggest takeaway thus far from Nationals camp has to be the adage that no news is good news. Aside from the training staff taking a cautious approach with Christian Garcia, whose camp has been slowed by a week or two, it has been a healthy, uneventful spring. And that means we can revel in book clubs and mascot mishaps as we wait the final 24 days for Opening Day to arrive.

Here’s a look at today’s lineup and a list of Spring Training results to date:

Nationals Lineup

1. Espinosa 2B

2. Werth RF

3. Harper CF

4. Zimmerman DH

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Moore LF

8. Ramos C

9. Tracy 3B

P. Zimmermann

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

3/5 @ Philadelphia – L, 6-3

3/6 @ Houston – L, 4-2

Overall Record: 5-5-2

A Classic Beginning

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The 2013 World Baseball Classic opened on Saturday with a pair of games in Taiwan and another in Japan. While most Washington fans are probably focused on the two American hurlers – Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez – set to throw for Team USA, a third Nationals player is already making his impact felt for his home country. Roger Bernadina, batting third and playing center field for the Netherlands, had a double, a run scored and a pair of RBI as the Dutch upset Korea, 5-0, in their opening game.

Bernadina is a native of Curacao, one of the islands off the coast of Venezuela formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles, when it was Dutch colony. He also makes his offseason home in Den Haag, a rarity among players on the WBC team. Playing with the likes of Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and former All-Star Andruw Jones, Bernadina has the opportunity to play a more leading role than he has had to this point in the Major Leagues.

Team Netherlands dropped its second game of pool play on Sunday, and will need a win over Australia on Monday for a chance to advance to the second round.

Detwiler will make just one more start with the Nationals Sunday afternoon before departing for Phoenix for Team USA’s first round games. He is set to piggyback Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong in the team’s March 9 game vs. Team Italy at Chase Field.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, is set to start the March 12 contest against either Canada or Mexico at Marlins Park in Miami, should the U.S. advance out of the first round.

The Nationals got one last piece of World Baseball Classic news on Sunday, when they learned that outfielder Eury Perez will join the Dominican Republic squad. Should both the DR and USA teams advance, they would meet in the second round, with Gonzalez potentially squaring off against Perez.

Back in Viera, the Nationals will play the back half of a home-and-home with the Cardinals today, who they defeated by a count of 6-2 in Jupiter on Saturday. The offense was led by home runs from Ian Desmond, Chris Marrero and Anthony Rendon, who took St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright deep off the top of the batter’s eye just left of dead center field.

Sunday’s game will feature the first full lineup of the spring, including Ryan Zimmerman’s Grapefruit League debut. Here’s the full lineup, as well as a list of Spring Training results to date.

Lineup:

1. Span CF

2. Werth RF

3. Harper LF

4. Zimmerman DH

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Lombardozzi 3B

P. Detwiler

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

First Taste of Atlanta

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The Nationals traveled to Lake Buena Vista Tuesday afternoon, where they were greeted with their second rain delay in the opening four days of the Spring Training slate, and their first look at what largely resembled a real Opening Day lineup.

The host Braves started five or six regulars (depending on your analysis of their third base situation), including both Upton brothers, Freddie Freeman, Jayson Heyward and Dan Uggla against Washington starter Ross Detwiler. The even-keeled lefty took the challenge in stride in what was also his first outing in the Grapefruit League this year.

Ross Detwiler showed an impressive breaking ball in his first spring start.

Ross Detwiler showed an impressive breaking ball in his first spring start.

“You saw the lineup they put out there today,” he said, referencing Atlanta’s projected regulars, most middle-of-the-order types. “I could have gotten embarrassed pretty easily.”

Detwiler more than held his own however, looking very sharp through two frames before allowing a single run in the third. He didn’t allow a single extra-base hit, but perhaps the most impressive part of his outing was his breaking ball, which he located for strikes with great movement.

“It’s coming along a little bit,” he said, modestly, of his hook.

That’s an understatement, considering how much Detwiler relied on his two fastballs last year. He used three effective breaking balls to neutralize one of the National League’s better left-handed hitters in Heyward over a pair of at-bats on Tuesday, striking him out looking on a front door bender in the first inning.

“He’s got a lot of weapons,” said manager Davey Johnson of his developing southpaw’s expanding repertoire. “[That] makes the fastball that much better.”

When asked if the outing would help prepare him for the competitive outing Detwiler is slated to encounter in the World Baseball Classic, the 26-year-old’s response served to foreshadow the type of intensity the Washington-Atlanta rivalry may well have this year.

“I just played a competitive game,” he deadpanned.

Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and newcomer Dan Haren get their first starts of the spring Wednesday.

Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche and newcomer Dan Haren get their first starts of the spring Wednesday.

Never one to ease into things, Detwiler’s most supportive teammate in the lineup was Bryce Harper, who continued his hot start to the spring. The young slugger legged out a chopper over Freeman at first for a double, swatted a Mike Minor offering to the opposite field gap for another two-bagger, and finished his afternoon with a rocket off Freeman’s mitt for a single. His 3-for-3 afternoon left him hitting (small sample size alert) .750 for the spring. Harper kept the gaudy numbers in their proper perspective, though.

“Facing Minor during the season and facing him right now is a little different,” he said of the Braves starter, who was also throwing in live action for the first time. “I don’t want to say I’m relaxed or comfortable, because I never want to be that way.”

Just because others are easing into the first days of the schedule doesn’t mean Harper is. He already lobbied his way into the lineup Wednesday afternoon, which will be his first chance to play with both Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche this year.
“I’d like to get in that lineup every day, pretty much,” he said, and Johnson was persuaded to agree.

The Nationals take on Miami in Viera at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday afternoon as Dan Haren makes his first start in a Washington uniform. See below for today’s lineup, along with spring results to date.

Nationals 2/27 Lineup:

1. Span CF

2. Harper LF

3. Werth RF

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Tracy 3B

6. Espinosa DH

7. Suzuki C

8. Lombo 2B

9. Walters SS

P. Haren

Record: 1-2-1

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

Weekly Review: National News

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Here at Curly W Live, we will be conducting a weekly review every Monday of all the storylines from the week that was. If you’re new to the site or have just been too busy to stay current with all the day-to-day action, this is your way to get caught up on everything going on with the team.

The Racing Presidents arrived at Mt. Rushmore on Presidents Day, concluding “Bill and Teddy’s Executive Adventure.” Washington learned that it will have another member of The District’s Nine represent Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, as Ross Detwiler was invited to join the squad. Meanwhile, back in Viera, we introduced you to a trio of new faces to keep an eye on in camp as Nationals wrapped up the final days of practice before the Grapefruit League schedule began in earnest.

On Saturday, Washington opened its slate on the road in Port St. Lucie against the Mets. Stephen Strasburg took a Zen approach to his first two innings of work, and Bryce Harper collected the team’s first hit of the spring. On Sunday, the Nationals hosted their home opener against the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium, a contest that featured the strength of their top prospect, along with a rain delay, an extra inning, and a tie.

Weekly Record: 0-1-1

Overall Record: 0-1-1

National Det Joins National Team

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It’s been one heck of an offseason for Ross Detwiler. That trend continued Tuesday, as the Nationals starter was extended and accepted an invitation to pitch for Team USA in this year’s World Baseball Classic.

“The little kid in me wanted to say yes right away, without thinking it through,” said Detwiler, who immediately took the offer to manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty to get their nod of approval.

Both coaches encouraged his participation. Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo also spoke Tuesday, throwing his support behind Detwiler’s decision to play.

Detwiler will set aside his Nationals gear to play for Team USA.

Detwiler will set aside his Nationals gear to play for Team USA.

“This will be a good step in Ross’ developmental curve,” Rizzo explained. “These kinds of opportunities don’t come along very often, and we think it’s vitally important that Team USA is well represented.”

This will not be Detwiler’s first stint in a Team USA jersey, as he also pitched as an amateur for the 2006 squad that won the championship in Cuba. He said that his ring from that tournament still rests on his nightstand at his offseason home in the St. Louis suburbs as one of his proudest career accomplishments.

Ever since his strong performance in Game 4 of the NLDS last October, the left-handed starter has been whisked in one direction, then another, his life a whirlwind of activity. First, the 26-year-old married his college sweetheart Keri on December 1 and the two took to Hawaii for their honeymoon. However, before they could even return from that trip, the next big event in Detwiler’s life presented itself.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey – who had met Detwiler when he threw out ceremonial first pitches twice during the 2012 season – personally invited the pitcher on his USO holiday tour. Faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Detwiler jumped at the chance, departing the warm, sunny beaches of Hawaii for the war-torn middle east.

As the calendar flipped to January, Detwiler’s newly minted Twitter handle earned the nod as the most creative in baseball. Now, just as he was settling into his first week of Spring Training, the opportunity to represent his country has come knocking once more.

Detwiler compared the honor of the USO and Team USA invitations, joking that perhaps the highlights of his year were coming a little earlier than he expected.

“I feel like I’m peaking a little early,” he joked. “But it’s kind of the same feeling, being able to wear ‘USA’ across my chest and represent my country.”

Detwiler will join Team USA in Arizona for the first round of games in the first week of March.

Pitchers and Catchers

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People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. – Rogers Hornsby

Look outside. It has been cold and blustery here in D.C. Your bones may creak and your muscles may ache in the morning as you prepare for your day. The prospect of spring may still seem a distant light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. But today, everything should feel a little warmer inside. Today is first day that truly matters on the baseball calendar. Today, Nationals pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

It's finally time for Spring Training to begin.

It’s finally time for Spring Training to begin.

It has been a difficult winter for many Nationals fans, who saw the magical 2012 season end so abruptly. But with a longer season, one that stretched into October for the first time, and an early report to Viera thanks to the World Baseball Classic, this winter seemed shorter than those before it.

Perhaps that was due to the strategic, piece-by-piece additions of Denard Span, Dan Haren and Rafael Soriano, as the team addressed its most pressing winter needs. Perhaps it was simply the ever-quickening nature of our perception of time. Think about it: as euphoric the aftermath of Game 4 and heartbreaking that of Game 5, doesn’t it all seem like a bit of a distant memory?

That’s because baseball is back. Sure, we’re a very long way from another October, with a more youthful Atlanta squad, a Phillies club looking to rebound from their first missed postseason since 2006, and 27 other teams standing in the way. But none of that matters yet. Not today.

Look outside again, at the sun shining through the clouds. If it’s beginning to feel like spring, it should. It is time to begin again from the beginning once more, but with prospects as bright and expectations as high as they have ever been.

It’s time for baseball. Finally.

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