Washington Nationals' pitching coach Steve McCatty was impressed with what he saw from 26-year-old left-hander Ross Detwiler in Det's last start. He was impressed enough that he held the pitcher up as an example for Stephen Strasburg when he talked to the Nats' 24-year-old phenom after Strasburg had struggled in his own outing against Philadelphia last week as McCatty told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier in a recent interview. Detwiler shut the Phillies out over seven innings in his own start in that series in the nation's capital, allowing just three hits and two walks. The '07 2nd Round pick threw just 88 pitches that night, 78 were fastballs with a mix of changeups and sliders thrown in. As McCatty explained, the Nationals were trying to convince Strasburg that, "... all he has to do, if he wanted to, he could pitch basically with a fastball."
"And Ross was a perfect example of that last night," McCatty said, "He threw 88 pitches and probably 80 of them were fastballs. You can pitch and locate and use your fastball." The lesson he was attempting to impart, the former major league pitcher explained, was simply that, "You can use your fastball, even though they're sitting on it, if you locate it, you're going to make pitches." Detwiler had done just that, he used an 0-2 slider to get a strikeout from the opposing pitcher, mixed in some offspeed stuff in the late innings of his outing and dominated the Phillies by simply pounding the zone with a four-seamer and sinker that had tremendous movement. "He's taken what he does and uses it and that's pound the zone," McCatty explained, "He's got a good fastball, he's back to throwing it with velocity, he's got great sink and he's just attacking guys."
"Part of this game is learning your craft and make it easier," McCatty told the hosts, "tricking them and all that stuff is not the way you want to do it, it just makes it really tough and you end up throwing a lot pitches." It couldn't have been much easier for Detwiler, who got 11 groundball outs from the 26 batters he faced last time out and has gone seven innings in three of his last four starts withouth exceeding 98 pitches in any of the three. The one time the Phillies really threatened the Nats' left-hander in his last start was in the second inning, but a strong throw from right field by Bryce Harper caught a runner at home to help the pitcher out. After a one-out walk to Chase Utley in the third put two runners on, Detwiler retired the final two batters in that inning and twelve-straight after that to keep Philadelphia off the board through seven in what ended up a 3-0 Nats' win.
"He had outstanding sink," Davey Johnson told reporters after the game, "They couldn't center on it. A lot of ground balls. Trying to get down on it hit some pop-ups. That was dominant." Detwiler was (6-4) after the win with 30 walks (2.59 BB/9), 70 K's (6.04 K/9), a 3.02 ERA and 3.68 FIP in 22 games, 16 starts and 104.1 IP. In 91.0 innings as a starter this year, Detwiler has a 3.26 ERA, a 3.47 FIP, 2.37 BB/9 and 5.93 K/9. The change the Nats' manager has seen in the left-hander this year, he explained, has a lot to do with Detwiler realizing exaclty what kind of pitcher he really is, a process McCatty says Strasburg's going through now at the major league level.
"You start realizing what kind of stuff you have," Johnson said, "and that you don't have to overdo it. I mean he went through that one period where he was pitching with a 91 mph sinker. But his best sinker is that power sinker that he throws harder and it has really late movement, really bites down, and if he comes inside it's kind of coming back over the plate. It's just some awfully good stuff and he's starting to realize that and he's using it as a weapon."
"He got into the deal, where being across his body, where he had lost his velocity," Steve McCatty explained during the interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C., referring to the mechanical changes in his delivery that Detwiler's made this year that seem to have turned him around. "Three years ago he was 88 to 91 at the tops where in college he was throwing the ball firmer than that. And so we got him back online and [are] just telling him to let it go. And now he's topping out at 96. And when you have that kind of velocity and he's got real good movement on the ball and being left-handed, you just don't see that out of a lot of guys."
The Astros, who have a combined .210/.276/.342 line against left-handers, will get a look at Detwiler tonight when he makes his seventeenth start of 2012 in Minute Maid Park, hoping to help the NL East leading Nationals to their fourth-straight win.