Nationals welcome Detwiler to fold

Nationals welcome Detwiler to fold

WASHINGTON -- Left-hander Ross Detwiler officially became a member of the Nationals on Friday afternoon after signing his contract and $2.15 million signing bonus check in front of the media and members of the Nationals, including manager Manny Acta, general manager Jim Bowden, closer Chad Cordero and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

Detwiler, who will wear No. 18, will report to Viera, Fla., on Saturday to begin his professional career with the Gulf Coast Nationals. After two starts there, Detwiler is expected to be promoted to Class A Potomac. If he is successful, Bowden didn't rule out promoting Detwiler to Double-A Harrisburg by August and then the big leagues by September.

The possibility of playing in the big leagues this year is the reason Detwiler decided to sign with Washington a month after he was selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

"I didn't want to waste a season. I think people holding out are wasting a season and a chance to get to the big leagues quicker," Detwiler said. "It's a great feeling [that I have a chance to be in the big leagues]. That's one of the reasons I signed. They said I could be up there that quick. That kind of hit home. My dream is to play in the Major Leagues, not to get a lot of money."

It was a whirlwind for Detwiler after the press conference. He had a handful of separate interviews with the media, ate a sandwich near the stands with his parents, Gail and Rick, and grandparents, Jim and Millie Evans, spoke to principal owner Mark Lerner and team president Stan Kasten, watched batting practice with Bowden and threw out the ceremonial first pitch -- a ball in the dirt to catcher Brian Schneider.

"It's unbelievable. Running around, interviews left and right and meeting the whole team," Detwiler said.

Around 4:30 p.m. ET, he was introduced to many of the players on the 25-man roster. Detwiler's biggest highlight was when he and his father met first baseman Dmitri Young outside the Nationals' locker room. Young hugged Ross, and then both father and son told Young they remembered when Young played for the Cardinals in the late 1990s. Humbled, Young thanked the Detwilers for remembering him in St. Louis.

"Growing up in St. Louis, he was there before Mark McGwire was at first base. I always watched him on TV early on in his career. It's unbelievable meeting him, as a Cardinals fan," Ross said.

Detwiler, 21, is a power pitcher. He has a plus fastball, curveball and changeup, and he can command both sides of the plate. His fastball is clocked between 90-95 mph. Detwiler was dominant this past season, posting a 2.22 ERA in 14 appearances while striking out 110 batters in 89 innings for Missouri State.

The Nationals' front office took notice of Detwiler in 2006, when he earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honorable mention accolades after going 7-4 with a 2.81 ERA in 14 starts. Detwiler later earned All-MVC Tournament team honors.

Following the 2006 campaign, Detwiler pitched for Falmouth of the Cape Cod League, where he allowed just two runs with 14 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings over two starts.

Detwiler also pitched for Team USA last summer, going 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five games (two starts) to help the club win the International University Sports Federation tournament title in Havana, Cuba. He registered 20 strikeouts in 18 innings.

But what impressed the Nationals is the way Detwiler handled the elements this season. On April 14, despite pitching in 35-degree weather with a strong wind blowing, he gave up one run in seven innings while striking out 10.

"It didn't seem to affect me at all," Detwiler said. "I think it was cold for my first nine starts. I didn't break a sweat but in like two or three of my starts. It was nice once the warm weather got there. You kind of get used to the cold."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.