With the addition of pitcher Ross Detwiler to Team USA’s roster in the World Baseball Classic last week, the Washington Nationals have three players competing in the event.
Detwiler is the second pitcher to make it on the squad, in addition to Gio Gonzalez, who was added earlier in the selection process.
In addition to the two pitchers, Roger Bernadina is also taking the field in the tournament, playing for the Netherlands.
With 40 percent of the pitching rotation gone, as well as a proven outfielder, this both helps and presents challenges for Washington only two weeks into spring training.
The players participating in the WBC benefit from playing in competitive games earlier in spring training.
In the first spring training game of the year for the Nationals, starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg only threw in two innings In their second game, Jordan Zimmermann pitched three.
This will obviously be different in the WBC, when the games are much more competitive, and the players will see more playing time.
Players in the tournament often won’t pitch more than five innings in one start, but when they are in, they’ll be facing players who are there to win.
In the 2009 WBC, pitcher Roy Oswalt started three games but only went an average of 3.7 innings per game for Team USA.
The same goes for Jake Peavy, who in 2009 started two games but only averaged 2.5 innings per game.
However, Detwiler and Gonzalez will be facing a number of MLB players for other teams who would otherwise be playing at about 75 percent in spring training.
With this work, though, comes the risk of injury. Many managers and players are concerned about injury risk, which has prompted a number of players to decline attending the event.
Injuries haven’t traditionally been a problem for Gonzalez, who started 33, 32 and 32 games in the past three years, respectively, for the Nationals and the Oakland Athletics.
This isn’t necessarily the case for Detwiler, who is cautionary over the state of his arm. While he has thrown several bullpen sessions in spring training, he told the Washington Post that he would keep a close eye on how he feels during the WBC.
“I’m definitely not going to take it lightly,” Detwiler said to the Post. “If I feel anything at all, my No. 1 priority is this team here. We have bigger and better things to do than we did last year here. If I feel anything at all, I’m going to have to shut it down and give somebody else a chance.”
Both pitchers bring solid arms to a rotation that already features the San Francisco Giants' Ryan Vogelsong and Cy Young-winning R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Gonzalez, who will only going Team USA if they advance to the second round in Miami, Fla., has the best statistical season of any pitcher on the Nationals’ roster, winning 21 games.
Early work for both he and Detwiler will hopefully get them going quicker than the pitchers staying in spring training.
However, being away from the team for a few weeks could be detrimental to the two pitchers, especially Detwiler. While he will get work, he has only been promised to appear in relief of another USA starter and pitch in three or four innings, according to the Washington Post.
It would have also been nice for Detwiler to get in some extra time with Washington’s pitching staff, who wanted the fifth-year pitcher to work on his off-speed pitchers, so he didn’t have to rely so much on his fastball, the Washington Times said.
Time away from the team shouldn’t be too big of a concern for the Nationals, though, as the latest Team USA could be playing is March 19, which still gives them plenty of time back at spring training.
Fans who are concerned for injuries to any of the three players, Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo said he is confident in the training staff on Team USA to keep his players injury-free.
“The staff over at Team USA, they’ve been around the block once or twice,” Rizzo said to the Times. “I look at it as the fact that we’re humbled and flattered that Team USA wants two of our starting pitchers on their ballclub. We think it’s vitally important that the USA is well represented.”
Yes, there is an injury risk whenever players compete in the WBC, but the level of competition there will be higher for the players who are going, giving them a leg up on players who chose to sit this one out.