Detwiler learning lots in the desert

Detwiler learning lots in the desert

WASHINGTON -- Left-hander Ross Detwiler has already received a taste of big league life, and that occurred just three months after the Nationals made him their No. 1 pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

When he joined the team in Washington, Detwiler's role was to watch the games, learn from the veteran players and listen to manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Detwiler didn't expect to see any action on the field.

However, Acta managed to put Detwiler in a game against the Braves on Sept. 7, 2007, and the young southpaw pitched one scoreless inning. His fastball was clocked in the low-to-mid 90s, but he didn't have good command of his breaking pitches.

"It helps a ton to get a little taste and learn from the players up there -- the bullpen or in the clubhouse," Detwiler said. "I was just watching big league games and see how they go about it every day."

Detwiler, 22, hopes to get back to the big leagues soon, but he must improve his stats from this past season. Detwiler played all of 2008 with Class A Potomac, where he experienced an up-and-down season. In 26 starts, he went 8-8 with a 4.86 ERA. Detwiler needed the last month of the season to get his ERA below 5.00.

"I got away from throwing strikes," he said. "The hitters were getting fastballs on fastball counts. If they know that a fastball is coming they can sit on it and hit it hard somewhere. Later in the season, I started to get ahead of people a little more and make more quality pitches."

The good news is, Detwiler performed in big games. He picked up victories in the first- and second-half division clinchers. In the postseason, Detwiler helped Potomac win the Mills Cup Trophy by winning a game and sporting a respectable 3.60 ERA in two starts.

"It was an unbelievable feeling," Detwiler said. "Everybody deserved it. It goes from the coaches and all the players we had throughout the year. I've never been in situations like that where if we win, we get something really big out of it. It was actually good to see that I was able to perform for my team."

Detwiler is now in the Arizona Fall League, where he is performing extremely well for the Peoria Saguaros. He hasn't given up a run in eight innings. The goal in the AFL is to fix his mechanics. According to St. Claire, Detwiler has made significant improvements.

St. Claire said Detwiler is not throwing the ball across his body as much as he did when he was drafted by the Nationals in '07. The Nationals want him to throw the ball on a straight line.

"He has been working very hard on keeping his lines to where he can [throw the ball on] both sides of the plate," said St. Claire. "Ross commanded the ball pretty decently. It was really nice to see him make that adjustment. I know he is working hard at it. That is something it takes a little while to correct. He was a little inconsistent with the curveball. He did throw some good ones, however."

Detwiler is not expecting to be in the big leagues next year, for he realizes that he has more work to do on the mound.

"Going into camp next year," he said, "if I'm working on the same lines that I am in the AFL, we will work on [improving my] offspeed pitches."

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