STL@WSH: Harper drives in two with a triple to right

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Bryce Harper, who initially turned down an invitation to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic to prepare for his first Major League Opening Day, volunteered to replace David Wright after the Mets' star was injured.

Nationals' manager Davey Johnson said Sunday he would have been fine with that, had it happened.

"I thinks it's a great experience to play for your country," Johnson said. "That's a great honor.

"But he wanted to focus on getting ready for this season," Johnson added. "I think that [the Classic] is something he can look at down the road."

Harper has indicated he would like to play in the next Classic in 2017.

"Four years from now, I think it'll be good," Harper said. "I'll be excited to play. I've been playing for the USA my whole life. Anything I can do to support my country and wear USA across my chest is good for me. I love it."

Needing someone to play third base, Team USA chose Padres third baseman Chase Headley, instead of Harper, to replace the injured Wright. But when Puerto Rico eliminated the United States, it became a moot point.

Harper, who is hitting .409 this spring, started in center field against the Tigers on Sunday and slammed a 420-foot double over Austin Jackson's head and off the wall in straightaway center in the fifth inning.

Detwiler impresses against tough Tigers lineup

HOU@WSH: Detwiler on preparing, returning to team

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ross Detwiler went from pitching on the "world stage" in the World Baseball Classic to facing the Tigers and what Detwiler described as their "ridiculous lineup" at Joker Marchant Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Detwiler couldn't afford a letdown, and he didn't have one, as he allowed one run in four innings. The only run against him came on a homer by Torii Hunter, as the Nationals slugged their way to a 12-10 win over the Tigers.

"You don't ever want to take any less intensity out there," Detwiler said. "I thought I threw some good changeups today, which I've never done before in my professional career. I was just trying to throw strikes, trying to get ahead of the hitters. When I did throw strikes, I was effective."

"I just wanted to see him pitch," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. Before Sunday's outing, Detwiler had last pitched for the Nationals on March 3 when the left-hander went two innings against the Cardinals, giving up one run on four hits and striking out four.

"I thought Ross was great," Johnson continued. "He threw four quality innings.

"I didn't want to go too far with him. He wanted to continue. I said, 'Keep it that way.' I told him to go throw 15 more pitches in the bullpen."

The Nationals are hoping Detwiler will benefit from the experience of pitching under pressure that he got in the Classic. They also believe the tutelage of Team USA pitching coach Greg Maddux will help him.

"You see all the big names on the coaching staff," Detwiler said. "They are people whose cards you collected when you were little. Now they are teaching you little things that they know about the game to help you out and put you in the right direction. It's kind of unspeakable how that goes. It's pretty incredible."

But now it's back to the business of preparing for the regular season.

"No doubt about it, the Tigers are one of the best teams in baseball," said Johnson. "I wouldn't want him to miss this experience. I think pitchers need to know the 'honey holes' of hitters."

Johnson plans to use Detwiler as his fifth starter with Dan Haren in the No. 4 spot because of his experience.

"I just want to be ready when they hand me the ball," Detwiler said.

Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez were both outstanding in the Classic, combining for nine shutout innings.

Detwiler, who cut short his honeymoon in December, leaving his wife in Hawaii, so he could fly halfway around the world to go on a four-country USO tour to give a boost to the troops, found the Classic experience exhilarating

"I'd do it again in a heartbeat," he said. "I take a lot of pride in somebody asking me to represent my country. It was a no-brainer for me. "It's a dream come true to play for your country."

Worth noting

• Ryan Zimmerman, who returned to third base on Saturday, was one of several Nationals regulars who didn't make the trip to Lakeland on Sunday. But Johnson said he plans to play his starters on a regular basis, home and away, beginning this week.

"I talked to everybody yesterday and I said, 'Everybody is going,' " Johnson said. "The second to last week, I like to have them play every day, no matter where we are. I want to feel comfortable with them to start the season. Legs, arms, everything."

• Gonzalez reported the Nationals' camp in Viera on Sunday. Gonzalez will pitch in a Minor League game on Monday, but the team hasn't said when he will make his next spring start. Gonzalez remained in Miami after Team USA was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic in order to be with his family.

• Tyler Moore belted a pair of homers Sunday, driving in three runs. "I haven't swung the bat like that in a while," he admitted.

"He's got power," Johnson said.