No, that’s not an extreme understatement concerning Stephen Strasburg’s game on Tuesday night. Rather, it is an assessment of Ross Detwiler’s first rehab stint, for Single-A Potomac. You may recall Detwiler had surgery to repair a torn hip flexor in Feburary and is just now coming back. He pitched pretty well for Potomac, albeit not as spectacularly as that Tuesday night start. He pitched 3 innings, allowed 4 hits and 1 walk with no runs. He also struck out 2. Not anything special, but a good sign for a first start. He’s immediately moving up and making his next start in AA.
If Detwiler comes around he could make a significant boost to the starting rotation. Last September was by far his best trip to the majors, where he made 5 appearances with 4 starts, and had a 1.90 ERA. In the 4 starts, he pitched 21 2/3 innings, struck out 10 and walked 9. His peripherals made it less impressive than the ERA, but it was still quite good. It certainly beat his Springtime stint in the majors where he had a 6.40 ERA in 10 starts.
Even then, though, the Nats had high hopes for him. He is only 24 this year, and last year he was called up to the majors after looking good in AA. In 6 starts there, he amassed a 2.96 ERA, and 28 K with only 10 BB in 27 1/3 IP. It should be noted that this was his first trip to AA. So when he was called to the majors, he had only 6 starts at any level above high-A under his belt, and he didn’t fare well. Eventually sent back down to the minors, he landed in AAA, somewhere he hadn’t been before, and had no problems succeeding there. In 10 AAA starts, he finished with a 3.10 ERA with 42 K and 20 BB in 49 1/3 IP. From that point, he was called up to the bigs again and had the successful September.
It is easy to get excited about Detwiler, he has some pretty good stuff – it’s probably not along the lines of Jordan Zimmermann, and clearly not what Strasburg has, but still he can make people swing and miss. However, you’ve gotta remember that September baseball is not the same as the rest of the year. You get to face teams out of the playoffs, or solidly in, that have expanded their roster and let more AAA types in. His September success does not mean he’ll be great in the summer. That being said, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Detwiler. If he can succeed to the point that he is a middle of the rotation type starter, the Nats will have a solid rotation with those three pitchers, Strasburg, Zimmermann and Detwiler, who are all 24 or younger, by the end of this summer. And that’s definitely something to look forward to.