Ross Detwiler handles elimination pressure with aplomb

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Plenty of writers have blasted the Nationals for shutting down Stephen Strasburg. Many of them were likely looking forward to doing it again if only his postseason rotation replacement, Ross Detwiler, would have obliged them by getting lit up and taking a loss as the Nationals were eliminated today.

Detwiler, of course, had other ideas. And it shouldn’t come as any big surprise that a guy with a 3.40 ERA during the regular season was able to hold down the Cardinals for six innings, even with the season on the line. There was perhaps some reason to be nervous; Detwiler hadn’t pitched in 12 days and his last outing, against these very same Cardinals, was probably his worst of the entire year.

Detwiler, though, came out with pretty good command Thursday and kept the Cardinals guessing by mixing up his pitches and changing speeds well. He allowed just three hits, all of which were singles. The only run he allowed came as the result of an error. That he struck out just two didn’t seem to matter.

It was a terrific outing, likely better than the one Strasburg would have turned in pitching in his place. As talented as Strasburg is, there’s a good chance he’d be wearing down had the Nationals allowed him to keep pitching. He may well have been even before he was shut down, as he struggled against the Marlins in two of his final three outings.

While it will continue to be debated in the weeks going forward, Detwiler did the best he could to render the Strasburg decision irrelevant. And hopefully he made a name for himself, too. Terming him a fourth starter doesn’t do him justice, and like Strasburg, he’ll be a part of more postseason rotations going forward.

 

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.