Davey Johnson was talking about Dan Haren's improvement over his last few starts on Saturday when he touched briefly on how what was true for 32-year-old veteran right-hander was also true for Ross Detwiler, the Nats' 27-year-old, '07 1st Round pick. Both pitchers could learn from Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals' 70-year-old skipper explained after Zimmermann threw a 91-pitch, complete game, one-hitter vs the Cincinnati Reds.
"[Zimmermann] used four pitches," Johnson said, "and threw them over. I mean, 91 pitches in nine innings? And that's the kind of thing I want to see going here [with Haren]. [Heck] everyone I threw out there had trouble against the Reds last time. But, again, the one thing you don't want to get into from a hitting standpoint, if I'm facing anybody, the more pitches that they throw that miss, the better chance I've got of hitting them. Because I've seen them and every pitch you see you get a chance to time it. You get to see the movement. Release point. So then when he does throw it over you're more apt to be on [it]."
Johnson said he didn't care about Haren's velocity as much as he wanted to see him command of all his pitches and mix them in. The same for Detwiler. "At some point," Johnson explained, "Det will start using all his pitches, mixing them in a la [Zimmermann]. But that's a maturation process and trial and error."
• Davey Johnson on Detwiler:
"From a managing standpoint" Johnson said, "You like to see when you know they start applying all their weapons as a pitcher and going after them." The former Mets' manager who led New York to the World Series in 1986 said it took a while with Ron Darling back then, but eventually the 1981 1st Round pick figured it out and became a solid starter.
"But it's always a progression," Johnson said, "I like what I've seen in the progression in [Stephen Strasburg] and he's still a work in progress. Gio [Gonzalez] is a little further along. He knows what he needs to do, sometimes he gets out of whack. [Detwiler] has made a lot of progress from 2011 to here and he's still got that thing going."
The next step in the progression, as Johnson reiterated, will come when Detwiler starts learning to mix in all of his pitches effectively. Going into today's start at home against Cincinnati, Detwiler had used his fastball (four-seam or sinker) 91.6% of the time through his first four starts, his curve just 5.4% of the time and his change on 3.0% of his pitches. In his last start before today, against the St. Louis Cardinals last week, the Cards got to the left-hander the second time around. Four Cardinals in a row reached base, each with hits on fastballs/sinkers and St. Louis scored the only two runs they would need in a 2-0 win.
"He still has a lot of growing to do," the Nats' 70-year-old manager said that night. "Good young arm coming up and having success, there's still a higher ceiling there. I mean, he's pitched basically with his fastball and great location and he's still got a great curve ball and changeup. So he hasn't really fully matured as far as I'm concerned."
This afternoon in Nationals Park, the Reds jumped on Detwiler early as he struggled with his command. Zack Cozart singled through second on a 95 mph 2-2 sinker. Joey Votto doubled to left on a 92 mph 1-0 sinker. Brandon Phillips started up 2-0, fouled two off and then got hold a high, 94 mph four-seamer outside and drilled it back up the middle for a two-run single. Detwiler's manager said the pitch to Phillips was the one that really cost the left-hander.
All of Detwiler's 35 pitches in the first were fastballs, again, four-seamers or sinkers, and 11 of them were balls. "They hit some balls hard," Johnson said, "But the biggest mistake he made was to Phillips in the first inning when he had him 2-2 and he was coming in on him and he left it out over the middle of the plate. But he's been so good all year long making his pitches in tough spots."
Detwiler told reporters after the game that he obviously missed his spot with the pitch to Phillips. "I didn't want to throw the ball down the middle," the left-hander said, "but it's just one of those things. I didn't have a good feel for anything today."
"When Det's not really sharp," Johnson explained, "that's going to happen. [They'll] get a bunch of hits. But he battled and gave us five innings and kept us in the ballgame, gave us a chance to win. But there are times like that where he needs to use his whole arsenal. He'll get there."
Following today's loss in his 61st MLB start and five starts into his sixth major league season, Detwiler is now (1-2) with a 2.03 ERA, 3.16 FIP, six walks (1.74 BB/9) and 16 Ks (4.65 K/9).