VIERA, Fla. (AP) — Washington Nationals pitcher Ross Detwiller has had an exciting past few months.
Detwiler has gotten married, been on a USO Holiday Tour — and now the left-hander will pitch for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
"It's been a pretty good offseason," he said Tuesday. "I think I'm peaking a little early here. I don't think I'm going to be able to top this one."
Detwiler, 26, will be the second Nationals pitcher to play for Team USA, joining Gio Gonzalez.
After getting the request from Tony Clark, the Major League Baseball Player Association's director of player relations Tuesday morning, Detwiler wanted to say yes right away. However, he also knew he needed to talk things over with the Nationals first.
"We feel it's our duty and obligation to put the best team forward we can for Team USA," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. "We're honored that they want two of our starting pitchers. We're flattered about it. I know Ross is really fired up for it.
"This will be a good step in Ross' developmental curve. These things don't happen very often. Having that USA across your chest is something every player should have."
Detwiler went 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA for Washington last season after earning the team's fifth starting job in spring training.
The plan is to have him pitch two spring training games — Feb. 26 against Atlanta and March 3 against St. Louis — before leaving Nationals camp.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who said, "It's a great honor and a thrill" to be able to play for Team USA has remarked this spring that Detwiler has become a true pitcher, instead of someone who relies on his fastball too much.
"He's been on me (about that) quite a bit," Detwiler said. "It just means I'm going to throw more breaking balls and changeups earlier in the count, earlier in the game.
"That's one thing we talked about. I have two starts here before I go and in those two I'm going to work on that. Even when I leave, he said I need to work on that. They're going to keep tabs on me, make sure I do that."
With Joe Torre as the manager and Greg Maddux as the pitching coach, the Nationals have no doubt Detwiler will be in good hands.
The only concern Rizzo expressed Tuesday is that the intensity level of playing in the WBC will be much higher than during a typical spring training start.
Detwiler said he will try to emulate his approach to Game 4 of last year's National League Division Series game against St. Louis, when he allowed just three hits over six innings.
"I kind of go back to my playoff game, where I just tried to relax myself as much as possible and not overthrow," Detwiler said. "I'm going to take that mentality in, just let the ball work and don't overthrow the sinker because then it stays straight."
Being able to mix up his pitches more should pay off in a big way for Detwiler, who said there were times in the past when he would overthrow his fastball and it would "straighten out" making it a tasty morsel for hitters.
"Doing it a few times, I'm starting to realize I need to lay off it a little bit and let it work for itself," he said.
This will actually mark the second time Detwiler will get to pitch for Team USA, just in a much higher-profile setting. He was part of the 2006 USA team that won the World University Baseball Championship in Cuba.
He keeps the championship ring on the nightstand at home so he can look at it every night. Pretty soon, he's going to have a Team USA jersey to hang on his wall.
"I get to represent my country in a baseball uniform," Detwiler said. "There's nothing better than that."
Notes: Ryan Zimmerman tested his surgically repaired shoulder Tuesday and Johnson was happy with the third baseman's throwing motion, saying it looked, "natural, free and easy." Zimmerman will likely serve as a designated hitter during the first two weeks of spring before playing in the field . To make sure Detwiler got two starts in before leaving for the WBC, the Nationals adjusted their spring rotation, flipping Detwiler and Dan Haren. The rotation will now be Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Detwiler and Haren . Johnson will now have two spots to fill in his spring rotation once Detwiler and Gonzalez leave, but reiterated that he wants to see the candidates pitch in some early spring games before making that decision.