Detwiler begins spring audition with A's

Lefty plans to use opt-out clause if he doesn't make roster

Detwiler begins spring audition with A's

MESA, Ariz. -- Left-hander Ross Detwiler intends to sneak his way onto the A's roster with a strong spring showing. Otherwise, he's likely out the door.

The veteran pitcher, newly accepting of the swingman role, has a March 26 opt-out clause in his contract, and he plans to take advantage of it -- barring a dreadful Cactus League performance -- and become a free agent in search for opportunity elsewhere should he not make the team.

The A's, of course, would prefer to keep Detwiler in their system for depth, but there's currently no place for him on the Opening Day roster, considering the already crowded competition for the remaining spots in the rotation and bullpen; only one is up for grabs in each.

So, Detwiler, while hoping to change the A's minds this spring, will seemingly be putting on a show for other clubs over the next month as well. He's scheduled to make his Cactus League debut Saturday in a relief spot against the host Cubs.

"It doesn't mean you're only showcasing for that team," said Detwiler, whose Minor League deal contains a $1 million base salary if he's added to the Major League roster. "All the other teams are watching, too."

Detwiler, who will turn 31 on March 6, tossed 44 innings across nine games (seven starts) for the A's last year, posting a 6.14 ERA. He dominated in his first outing, spinning eight shutout innings against the Orioles, but completed fewer than six innings in all but one of his other starting assignments.

He admittedly struggled to acclimate to an undefined role.

"I kind of bounced back and forth, and some things were sprung on me, but it's my fault I wasn't that prepared for it," Detwiler said. "At first, I didn't accept it myself, because I always wanted to be a starter. Now, I want a job, so whatever role I'm in, I can mentally prepare myself for that."

Detwiler compiled a tidy 3.61 ERA for the Nationals between 2010-14, but his numbers have declined while bouncing between four other clubs.

"Sometimes acclimating to a more versatile role can be tough, but I think he learned with us last year that he has a chance to be successful, and it allows him more opportunities to get to the big leagues," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "The overall numbers may not have looked great, but there were certain times where he pitched really well for us, and we felt enough about him to want him back again."

Detwiler, a fervent cribbage participant in Oakland's clubhouse, cited comfort as a major factor for sticking with the A's, as well as a productive relationship with several of the coaches, notably pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Scott Emerson. They encouraged him to try out a cutter at the end of last season, and it finally took during the offseason.

Detwiler plans to unveil it in game action for the first time this spring -- no matter his role.

"I finally let go," Detwiler said. "I thought about that driving to the park today. What does it really matter where you are? Just do your best where you're at, and that's something I think I'm going to convey on some of the younger guys now, because I was in that position, even when I turned 30 last year. Why fight it? It's not doing anything but hurting myself."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.