Davey Johnson saw something he liked in Ross Detwiler as far back as Spring Training as he explained to reporters right before the All-Star Break when he announced that the Nats' 2007 1st Round pick (6th overall) would return to the rotation after working out of the pen outside of one start until then. "We've had high hopes [for Detwiler] ," Johnson said, "He's very poised out there, makes quality pitches, I mean he had a great Spring Training. By all [accounts] he probably should have made the club out of Spring Training. He was probably the best pitcher in the Spring."
The 26-year-old St. Louis-born lefty drafted out of Missouri State University surrendered 13 hits, 5 walks and 5 R, 4 ER while striking out 10 in 15.1 IP during Spring Training, but started the season in Triple-A Syracuse where opponents had a .282 BAA and a .336 BABIP against the lefty who posted a 4.53 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 3.30 BB/9 and 6.49 K/9 in 16 starts and 87.1 innings pitched. Before being put back in the rotation, Detwiler had posted a 2.34 ERA and a 3.91 FIP, with 5 walks (2.93 BB/9) and 10 K's (5.87 K/9) in one start and six appearances out of the bullpen for the Nats, holding opponents to a .224 BAA and a .255 BABIP. In four starts since then Detwiler's allowed seven runs, all earned, four home runs and eight walks while striking out 16 in 22.2 IP.
In his last two outings, Detwiler's allowed just two runs, three walks and 13 hits in 12.2 IP and Monday night he shut the NL West-leading D-Backs down holding Arizona to one run on six hits and extending the struggling team's losing streak to six-straight games. "Tonight was outstanding," Johnson said Monday after Detwiler and the Nationals beat the Diamondbacks. "He's got a great arm and when he's real aggressive...he had a really good fastball, he was spotting it. He's got a little sinker with it too. That was impressive."
The Nationals' manager also spotted something in Jayson Werth which had him convinced, as he explained in the same pre-ASG press conference in which he talked about Detwiler, that the Nationals' right fielder would turn things around in the second-half of the first year of his seven-year deal with Washington. "I'm not worried about Jayson," Johnson told a reporter who asked if Werth "needed" the break, "Jayson's going to be fine in the second-half. Some other guys are standing up, and I think everybody could use [a break]. I'm sure Jayson's going to come back smoking."
Werth's .276/.366/.457 second-half slash is a significant improvement on his .215/.319/.362 first-half line. The right fielder has hits in 16 of 20 games this August and has 11 hits in his last nine games with two doubles and a three-run HR through eight games on the current homestand. "I said maybe three weeks ago," Johnson reminded reporters Monday night, "I thought he was coming along and every day I see more Jayson Werth coming out."
"I knew this was about time to come out," Johnson said, "and it's much needed." Asked if hitting behind a hot Ryan Zimmerman and hard-hitting Michael Morse has led to the improvement by Werth, the Nats' Skipper said, "I think it's more [Werth] just getting comfortable here and concentrating on doing the things he can do and I think everybody on the whole ballclub is offensively starting to come around. Everybody has been kind of pretty much sleeping and feeling their way, and he's been no different."
It's not all pats on the back, however. This past Saturday night, Johnson, who's signed to manage through the end of this year with a three-year consulting contract but no guarantee he'll return to the bench, was critical of his own use of the bullpen early after taking over from Jim Riggleman following the previous skipper's abrupt resignation. "I've been trying to be able to use the bullpen the way I want to use them," Johnson explained, "and early on in the season with not having long men, I was forced into kind of stretching them and that caused some problems. Now with a couple long men, and they've done a great job here lately, I've been able to use them more in roles where they've been accustomed to being used."
"The first half of the year," Johnson said, the Nats' bullpen was, "one of the best in the league and I kind of took it down a little bit by the way I was having to use them. But, I feel that they're settling in and I think they're getting to know how I'm going to use them and the way I'd like to use them properly. Johnson was familiar with the organization, and though he's suggested there's still changes he would make to the roster, he's adjusted to what he has now and with the veteran of 15 seasons on the bench at the helm, the Nats are creeping back towards .500 and have more wins as of August 23rd than they've had since 2005 when they finished 81-81 with franchise's best record since returning to Washington. So....Will Davey Johnson be back on the bench in 2012?