Dec 20, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
THIS WEEK’S DEBATE: WILL ROSS DETWILER START MORE THAN 20 GAMES FOR THE NATIONALS IN 2014?
MARK ZUCKERMAN: While it’s tempting to say no, I’m going to display a bit of faith in Detwiler … and the Nationals, for that matter. When healthy over the last 2 1/2 seasons, he has been an awfully good major-league starter. The key, of course, is keeping him healthy. By all accounts, Detwiler’s back is healed and he’ll be good to go for spring training. If so, he’s easily the Nationals’ best No. 5 starter option. Perhaps Ross will also pitch with a little chip on his shoulder after a frustrating 2013 and recent suggestions he’ll have to compete with Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan for a rotation spot. We’ve been waiting six years for this guy to rise to the occasion and realize his full potential. I say it happens in 2014.
CHASE HUGHES: Well, Mark, look at you in the glass half-full, holiday spirit. I honestly believe Ross Detwiler will be back in a big way in 2014, that he will stay healthy and be more like the playoff standout he was in 2012 than the ineffective DL-frequenter he was this past season. That said, I’m a firm believer in betting with the odds, and the odds simply suggest otherwise. Detwiler has made 20 starts in his career just once, in that memorable 2012 campaign when he held a 3.40 ERA. It hasn’t always been injuries that have gotten in the way; it’s been consistency. And the competition behind him, I think, is legitimate. Roark could force the issue, and they have prospects who are getting close. It is a tough situation for the lefty to break through.
MZ: Let me douse your holiday spirit with a bit of bah, humbug! I enjoyed watching Tanner Roark succeed late last season as much as anybody, but let’s not make this guy out to be something more than he really is. We’re talking about a pitcher whose ceiling, in all likelihood, is as a No. 5 starter. Detwiler’s ceiling? He could still blossom into a No. 2 starter. No, he hasn’t been able to put it all together over a full, 162-game season yet, but I think he senses the time has come. And I know the Nats would love nothing more than to see him do it. Which means: They’re going to give him ample opportunity come April.
CH: I agree Detwiler will get a great opportunity early in the season, as he should. They have to see if the 2012 version of Detwiler is still there. The problem is how much time he has left to prove himself. Detwiler will enter 2014 on a team that we expect to have a much greater sense of urgency, especially early on. If he doesn’t cut it through the first month, he’ll have guys like Roark and Jordan waiting in the wings. Rizzo openly saying there will competition for the spot is a message to Detwiler, and the pressure will be on. Couple that with him returning from injuries and only 71 1/3 innings in 2013, and Detwiler will need a strong start to the year. I think he can do it, but the odds are stacked heavily against him.
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