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Washington Nationals: Ross Detwiler's Minor Adjustments.

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Former Nats' team President Stan Kasten once told a story about how now-retired Atlanta Braves' Skipper Bobby Cox had called him after watching Ross Detwiler pitch, to tell the former Braves' team President, in Mr. Kasten's words, "This is unbelieveable, this is the exactly how we did it.'"

No one is going to confuse Ross Detwiler with Randy Johnson. Even when Johnson, then a wild 26-year-old flamethrower with the Mariners, was leading the league in walks from 1990-1992 (w/ 4.8, 6.8, and 6.2 BB/9, respectively, in each year during that period) he was striking out 10.0+ K/9 and starting 30+ games per season. Detwiler, who'll turn 25 in early March is just 24 starts into his major leauge career, but it was a few simple adjustments to Johnson's delivery (recommended to him by Nolan Ryan and others) that turned the former Montreal Expos' draft pick into a 5-time Cy Young Award winner, and according to folks who've seen Detwiler throw this Spring, and now according to Detwiler himself in a video posted on Nationals Journal by the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, a few minor adjustments have the long-limbed former 1st Round pick looking better than ever a few bullpen sessions into the 2011 campaign.

For Randy Johnson, a 6'10'' left-hander, (according to the pitcher himself in an interview with Mr. Ryan printed in Mariners Magazine in 1996 and reprinted HERE at MISCBaseball.com), it was a matter of getting his long arms and legs under control, landing on the ball of his foot instead of his heel and getting his, "...whole body going toward home plate, instead of toward third base." The 6'5'' Detwiler tells the Washington Post's Mr. Kilgore the issued he indentified were his position on the mound, the way he shifted his weight, where he stood, the direction of his stride and how it caused him to throw across his body, or "fight around" his body, "to get back over to the plate."

Detwiler corrected himself quickly after doing "mirror-work", as he explains in the Nationals Journal video, leading to new mechanics which have his entire body focused on moving toward the plate with a first step forward instead of toward the left-handed batter's box, and a delivery in which he's, "straight up and down and right back down towards the plate," as Detwiler says as he demonstrates the new approach. Detwiler, if words fail to capture the changes he made, described the adjustments more simply recently in an article by MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr entitled, ""Offseason program paying dividends for Nats' Detwiler":

"'I think I am back to where I was at one point before all the injuries,' Detwiler said. '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.'"

In article on Detwiler early success this Spring by the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore entitled, "Washington Nationals' Ross Detwiler finally feeling comfortable following hip surgery", the WaPost writer noted that Detwiler's focus this winter after an untimely injury last Spring set him back was, "on getting back the mechanics he used in 2009," when the then-23-year-old made 14 starts (and 1 relief apperance) and struck out 5.11 K/9 while walking 3.93 BB/9 and posting a 5.00 ERA and 3.86 FIP in 75.2 IP for the Nationals, along with a combined (4-5) record, 9.22 K/9, 3.29 BB/9, a 2.96 ERA and 3.31 FIP in six games and 27.1 IP at Double-A Harrisburg and 7.66 K/9, 3.65 BB/9, a 2.96 ERA and 3.31 FIP in 10 starts and 49.1 IP with Triple-A Syracuse.

During 2009, Detwiler spoke about his delivery with Mr. Kilgore's colleague at the Washington Post, then-Nats-beat-writer Chico Harlan for an article entitled, "Return to Old Delivery Seems to Suit Detwiler", in which Randy Knorr, then-the-Nats' bullpen coach, who, in 2008, managed Detwiler at Class A Potomac," said that, "'With Ross, the mind-set was always to get his lines straight,'" and though he was still throwing across his body in spite of attempts to change his delivery, he had recaptured some of what he'd showed that impressed scouts enough for Washington to select him with the 6th overall pick in 2007.

"Would it be nice if he was more direct to the plate?," Nats' Pitching Coach Steve McCatty asked rhetorically in the Washington Post's Mr. Harlan's 2009 article, "Yes. But did Bob Gibson throw across his body? Yeah. Quite a bit. A lot of guys do.'" So Detwiler's still throwing across his body, but as his pitching coached wished and as he finally convinced himself, his delivery is now focused on being more direct to the plate. At another point this Spring, Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, in an article entitled, "Chien-Ming Wang makes a change, Cole Kimball throws heat, Ross Detwiler looks good", quoted an unnamed team official who said, Detwiler was, "'the best guy out here wearing a uniform.'" In the next few years, Detwiler doesn't need to become a Bob Gibson or a Randy Johnson-type pitcher, all Washington needs is for Detwiler to effectively pitch at the back of rotation that's hopefully going to be fronted by Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

Former Nats' team President Stan Kasten once told a story about how now-retired Atlanta Braves' Skipper Bobby Cox had called him after watching Ross Detwiler pitch, to tell the former Braves' team President, in Mr. Kasten's words, "This is unbelieveable, this is the exactly how we did it," referring to the time the two worked together to put together the Atlanta Braves' rotation of Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and John Smoltz, and eventually Greg Maddux which enabled them to dominate the National League for over a decade. Mr. Kasten was sure to preface the anecdote by saying, "I wouldn't compare anyone here to them," but others have (less so since Kasten's departure) and I'm still not sure if Detwiler's supposed to be Glavine or Avery in the analogy, or which one John Lannan would be, if he has a place at all in the Nats' future rotation. But a mix of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Detwiler, Lannan, A.J. Cole, Sammy Solis, etc., etc., in the next couple years is one of the reasons Nats fans have to hope they'll be competing in the near future. Certainly having two first round picks like Detwiler and Strasburg as part of the solution would be ideal...or at least it might make taking Detwiler four spots ahead of the Giants' Madison Bumgarner a little easier to accept.

• Saturday Reading:

• Another big part of the future Nats, Bryce Harper profiled by Ken Rosenthal. - FOXSports.com - Ken Rosenthal, "Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper gets first taste of big leagues."

• via @NationalsPR: "1st ST Lineup- Monday at NYM - Morgan 8, Desmond 6, Bernadina 7, Morse 9, Stairs DH, Ramos 2, Barker 3, Espinosa 4, Hairston 5, Gaudin 1.

LINK: ESPN New York- Mets Blog - Adam Rubin, "Harris rear-ended on I-95."

"The car's done," he said. "We're trying to make some arrangements to get it in the right people's hands to get it fixed."

Quipped Harris: "I told 'Desie, 'You didn't set this up, did you?'"

LINK: CSN Washington/NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, "Wang to face minor-leaguers next week."

"Wang is slated to pitch at least one inning Friday in an intrasquad game featuring members of the Nationals' accelerated minor-league program."

LINK: MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling: The Goessling Game: Chris Marrero hoping to finally change from "not yet" to "now."

"It hasn't been so much that Marrero's development has lagged in the minors. He's switched positions twice, from third base to left field and then to first base, and continues to work on his defense there. And he's put together some solid seasons in the minors, hitting .294/.350/.450 with 18 homers and 82 RBIs at Double-A Harrisburg last year."