There were several good reasons for the Washington Nationals to deal Jason Marquis at the Non-Waiver Deadline two weeks back as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained to 106.7 the FAN's Danny Rouhier on last week's edition of The Mike Rizzo Show.
One, they picked up a young infield prospect in Zach Walters that the Nats' general manager described as a, "... high on base percentage guy that's a good steady defender and gives us a chance to increase our depth." Two, as the Nationals' GM noted, the move gives the Nats, "... financial flexibility to do some other things...be it sign some draft picks or to make some major league moves," with the cash for 2011 Draft picks especially important since the Nats are likely to spend a lot of dough on their top four picks in particular. And three, it gives Washington a chance to let '07 1st Round pick Ross Detwiler show what he can do at the Major League level...
The Nationals GM also noted that the move, from Arizona's perspective, allows them to add a veteran arm to their rotation and avoid rushing one of their younger prospects up to help keep them in contention in the NL West. With Washington out of the NL East and Wild Card race, however, the opposite is true. "On our side of it, it is time for us to get Ross Detwiler into the rotation. Davey [Johnson] has done, I think, a magnificent job with kind of grooming him in the big leagues this year. Handpicking some times for him to pitch, some situations that allow him to grow. He's thrown terrifically out of the bullpen. We think he's ready to take the next step and really solidify himself as a rotation guy for us from this point on down the road including for next year."
That's high praise for a pitcher, who's posted a 4.41 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 3.91 BB/9 and 5.12 K/9 over 31 games, 21 starts and 126.2 major league innings pitched since Washington selected the Missouri State University-educated lefty sixth overall in 2007. As the left-hander explained following his one win thus far this season, in his first start of the year back on July 5th against the same Cubs team he faces tonight, it's a reliance on his sinker that's led to success. "I threw a lot of sinkers today knowing that I didn't have a curve ball," Detwiler told MASN's Debbi Taylor, "...so just hit it on the ground and let the defense work for you."
Detwiler's gotten double-digit groundouts in both of his starts this season with Washington. It's a small sample size at the major league level this year, since he's made just two starts and worked predominantly out of the pen as the Nats' GM mentioned, but his GB% is up to 52.5% over a career 44.4%. Though he still works in his curve and change, the focus is clearly back on his fastball this season. Detwiler's throwing his sinker more often, throwing it for strikes, and when opposing hitters are connecting he's getting more ground ball outs.
"We've had high hopes [for Detwiler] ," Davey Johnson told reporters as he announced Detwiler's return to the rotation before his last outing in Colorado which saw the lefty give up five hits, three walks and two earned runs in a 6-3 loss to the Rockies. "He's very poised out there, makes quality pitches, I mean he had a great Spring Training," Johnson continued before praising Detwiler further, "By all [accounts] he probably should have made the club out of Spring Training. He was probably the best pitcher in the Spring."
Are the GM and Skipper just trying to build up Detwiler's confidence, assuring him that he's part of the team's future plans? Not trading Detwiler when other teams inquired as to his availability at the Deadline and once again giving him a spot in the rotation should help assure the left-hander he's still part of the team's plans, and he is the pitcher who inspired former Atlanta Braves' manager Bobby Cox to place a call to then-team President Stan Kasten back in 2009 after watching Detwiler pitch to tell Kasten, "This is unbelieveable, this is the exactly how we did it," referring to the Braves' build-up of arms before their decade-plus run atop the National League. Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler? It could happen.