Most everyone in baseball remembers the infamous “Shutdown of Stephen Strasburg” back in 2012, but many forget the player who replaced Strasburg in the Nationals’ playoff rotation. It would be the pitcher who started Game 4 of the NLDS, throwing 6 innings and allowing only one unearned run, before turning the game over to the bullpen and Jayson Werth to slug his legendary walk-off home run. That man would be the subject of this Heroes of Half Street, #48 Ross Detwiler.
Selected 6th overall by Washington in the 2007 MLB Draft after a stellar college career at Missouri State, Detwiler raced through the minor leagues before making his major league debut September 7, 2007. This one inning shutout appearance against the Braves made Detwiler the first player in his draft class to reach the majors. This cameo would be his only appearance on the mound that September, but set the stage for Detwiler to have a large role in the future of the franchise.
2008 saw Detwiler spend the entire season with High-A Potomac, making 28 starts and pitching 124 innings with a disappointing 4.86 ERA that summer. He allowed 140 hits and 57 walks against 114 strikeouts, leading to questions about his long-term future potential in the majors.
Detwiler began 2009 with Double-A Harrisburg but an early season injury to Scott Olsen rushed him to Washington in mid-May. Unsurprisingly Detwiler struggled with the promotion, posting a 6.40 ERA over 52 innings before he was sent back to the minor leagues. However, when Detwiler returned later in the year, he was a different pitcher, providing the Nationals with a 1.90 ERA over 23.2 innings. This success gave Detwiler an inside track to being a major part of the 2010 rotation.
Unfortunately in February 2010 Detwiler underwent hip surgery which delayed his season debut until late July. Detwiler struggled to return from this injury, pitching only 29.2 innings for the season with mixed results. Again Detwiler underwent another hip surgery after the season and similarly made his 2011 major league debut in July, finishing the year with a 3.00 ERA, 1.258 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 66 innings pitched.
2012 was the breakout season for Detwiler, as he surprisingly won the 5th starter spot in Washington’s rotation over stalwart LHP John Lannan during spring training. Although he had a quick demotion to the bullpen when Chien-Ming Wang was activated from the disabled list, Detwiler made 27 starts and 33 appearances for Washington, throwing 164.1 innings in 2012. Detwiler provided the upstart Nationals with a 10-8 record and a 3.40 ERA, 1.223 WHIP and 105 strikeouts as the team’s #5 starter.
As mentioned before, Detwiler took Stephen Strasburg’s place in the Nationals’ 2012 playoff rotation and pitched perhaps the biggest game in franchise history in Game 4 of the NLDS. His dominant start against St. Louis held the Cardinals’ lineup in check, giving Jayson Werth the opportunity to slug the biggest home run in franchise history.
Much like everyone on the Nationals in 2013, Detwiler struggled with injuries and poor performance, pitching only 71.1 innings for the season with a 4.04 ERA over 13 starts. Considering his difficulty with injuries and his success pitching in relief for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, the Nationals decided before the 2014 season to shift Detwiler permanently into the bullpen.
Although the Nationals were extremely successful on the field, new manager Matt Williams was unable to successfully find a role for Detwiler in 2014. Therefore, he struggled with his inconsistent usage, providing Washington with a 4.00 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 63 innings pitched exclusively in relief.
The starting pitching depth of the organization and Detwiler’s struggles in relief made him expendable after the 2014 season. And on December 12, 2014 Washington traded Detwiler to the Texas Rangers in exchange for minor league players RHP Abel De Los Santos and 2B Christopher Bostick. The move to the American League was a catastrophe, as he started the year on the disabled list before returning to provide the Rangers with a 7.12 ERA over 43 innings pitched before being released in July. Two days later Detwiler agreed to terms with Atlanta, pitching 15.1 innings for the Braves down the stretch with a 7.63 ERA and 16 walks allowed.
On December 22, 2015 Detwiler signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Cleveland Indians. As of this writing, Detwiler has posted a 5.40 ERA for the Indians this spring, allowing 3 runs and 6 hits in 5 innings pitched. He faces a difficult challenge capturing a spot on the talented Indians’ pitching staff but the 30-year-old still has a legitimate mid-90s fastball and should find a place on someone’s roster in 2016.
Assuming he does not return to the Nationals, Detwiler will finish his career in Washington with a 20-32 record and a 3.82 ERA over 471 innings pitched. In addition, Detwiler was the starting pitcher in perhaps the biggest win and moment in Nationals’ franchise history. This achievement, along with his engaging personality and wonderful smile, should earn him lifetime fan-favorite status in DC baseball history. Good luck #48 and here’s to several more successful seasons in the major leagues!
* Special Thank You to Cheryl Nichols of District Sports Page for generously sharing some of her impressive photos! *