Ross Detwiler started the 2011 season, after a 2010 campaign marred by an injury to his hip and recovery from surgery, talking about how adjustments he'd made to his mechanics had him feeling like he did back before the health issues derailed his development. "'I think I am back to where I was at one point before all the injuries,'" the 25-year-old left-hander told MASNSports.com writer Byron Kerr in an article entitled, "Offseason program paying dividends for Nats' Detwiler":
"'It still is a little bit across my body, but that is the way I have always thrown. But the direction I am going isn't going towards the on-deck circle any more; it is going towards the plate.'"
Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore spoke to an unnamed Nationals' official early this Spring who said the '07 1st Round pick looked like, "... the best pitcher in the entire camp," back when the Nats' arms were just throwing bullpen sessions and live BP.
"We've had high hopes [for Detwiler] ," Davey Johnson said recently when announcing Detwiler's return to the starting rotation tonight in Coors Field in Colorado...
"He's very poised out there, makes quality pitches, I mean he had a great Spring Training," Johnson said, "By all [accounts] he probably should have made the club out of Spring Training. He was probably the best pitcher in the Spring." Detwiler allowed 13 hits, 5 walks and 5 runs, 4 earned and struck out 10 in 15.1 IP this Spring, but the St. Louis, Missouri-born lefty, drafted out of Missouri State University 6th overall in 2007 told reporters, including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman), that he understood the decision when he was sent to Triple-A Syracuse to start the season:
"Detwiler's first step was to "prove to myself I could compete here and I belong here. Now the next one is to prove it to everyone else."
In 16 starts and 87.1 IP at Triple-A Syracuse this year, in which opponents have a .282 BAA and a .336 BABIP, the 5th-year pro has a 4.53 ERA and 3.49 FIP with 32 walks (3.30 BB/9) and 63 K's (6.49 K/9). In limited action with Washington, Detwiler's 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 seven appearances, with opposing hitters posting a .224 BAA and a .255 BABIP in six relief appearances and just one start before tonight.
"He's made quality pitches when I've brought him in," Davey Johnson said in explaining the decision to move Detwiler into the rotation with Tom Gorzelanny transitioning to the pen. "I really like Gorzelanny, Gorzelanny doesn't have anything to prove to me," Johnson continued, "But if we were fighting for a pennant we might not do it, but since we're where we're at, it's time to look at some new young arms, and give them kind of an opportunity to kind of establish. That's what you do."
ESPN.com's Keith Law, in an article entitled, "Daily Rumble: The Carlos Beltran market", before the deadline passed without the Washington Nationals finding the center fielder/leadoff man they'd searched for, wrote that while the Nats were interested in B.J. Upton, "...there are indications [the Nationals] balked at dealing two pitchers the Rays are believed to have asked about: Ross Detwiler and the much-coveted Brad Peacock."
MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an article entitled, "Chance to acquire Bourn didn't work out for Nats", wrote that though Washington inquired about Astros' CF Michael Bourn, "Houston wanted left-hander Ross Detwiler to be part of any deal the two clubs make and Washington declined, according to a baseball source."
What other players were involved in these deals in unclear, of course, but the fact that other teams continued to ask about Ross Detwiler would seem to mean that the Nats and Skipper Davey Johnson are not alone in thinking there's still potential there for the future. At 25, however, with some less-than-stellar starts and close to four walks per nine innings pitched so far in his major league career, Detwiler might want to make the most of the opportunities he's being given before the Nats decide to listen to teams interested in taking the chance the Nats did when they drafted Detwiler sixth overall in 2007.
"'There is always a risk with pitchers more so than position players," then-GM Jim Bowden told MLB.com's Bill Ladson in a June '07 article entitled, "Nats stick with pitching at top of Draft", "'but if you are going to take a risk, take it on a left-hander that has a frame and that throws 95 [mph],' Bowden said." For a pitcher put in the same sentence as David Price in that article and called "an October-type pitcher," by then-Scouting Director Dana Brown, Detwiler still has a way to go to justify that selection, he's still a 6'5'' lefty with mid-90's heat though, and for now he'll continue to get chances to prove that he belongs in a major league rotation. The next time another team asks?