Earlier this season, if something didn’t go Ross Detwiler’s way, his body language would show it — maybe a slap of the glove, or hunched shoulders on the mound. Detwiler, 26, learned to brighten up, relax and smile more on the mound from effervescent teammate Gio Gonzalez.
On the mound, Detwiler’s performance has improved. Not only did his demeanor change, but his results followed suit. He has relied more on his four-seam fastball recently, which makes his two-seam fastball, essentially his sinker, more effective.
It has shown. On Thursday, he needed only 88 pitches to cruise through seven innings. He allowed three hits. He induced 11 groundouts. In five starts since the beginning of July, he has a 2.38 ERA, allowing eight earned runs over 30 2/3 innings. His overall ERA dropped to 3.02, second among Nationals’ starter behind Jordan Zimmermann.
The following are factors in how Detwiler is developing more into the starter the Nationals envisioned after drafting him sixth overall in 2007.
Confidence: For much of his career, Detwiler has bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen. He earned a spot in the starting rotation near the end of spring training. He started off well, but his consistency slipped in May, and after his ninth start he was sent to the bullpen in favor of Chien-Ming Wang.
After a strong stretch in the bullpen and the inconsistency of Wang, Detwiler was reinserted into the rotation on June 24. With Wang still rehabbing a hip injury and improving his mechanics and Detwiler showing progress, the left-hander locked up the fifth spot in the rotation. The job security has helped his success.
“It’s just falling into a routine,” he said. “That’s when I get comfortable: When I can fall into my routine. I know I’m going to be here starting now, so it makes it a little easier.”
Pitch type: Of the 88 pitches Detwiler threw, 78 of them were fastballs: 56 four-seamers and 22 sinkers. His fastball hovered between 92 and 94 mph and had movement. And it allowed him to set up his biting sinker, saving it for when he needed to induce a ground ball.
“He went through that one period where he was pitching with a 91 mph sinker,” Johnson said. “But his best sinker is that power sinker that he throws harder, and it has really great movement.”
Added Detwiler: “I was down in the zone most of the night instead of being up. When I’m up, I get hurt.”
In comparison, during Detwiler’s worst start of the season, a nine-hit, six-run start on May 19, he threw his four-seam fastball only 30 times and his two-seam fastball 30 times.
In another recent strong outing, a scoreless seven-inning start on July 17, Detwiler threw a more effective ratio: 47 four-seam fastballs and 28 two-seam fastballs.
Strength: Since his return from a month-long stint in the bullpen, Detwiler has slowly been building up his endurance. Johnson hasn’t let Detwiler throw more than 100 pitches in a start yet since.
In the past month, he has pitched seven innings three times. In his career he has pitched into the seventh inning only eight times, and five of those have come this season. On Thursday, he was in prime position to go further than seven innings for only the second time in his career. But Johnson pulled him after only 88 pitches.
“He’s still so young up here,” Johnson said. “His pitch count, once he’s settled in here, and has got a bunch of wins, I’ll be letting him go further.”
FROM TODAY’S POST
Jayson Werth returned after missing nearly three months and Adam LaRoche hits his 20th home run of the season to power the Nationals past the Phillies, 3-0.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 2, Buffalo 0: Yunesky Maya pitched 7 2/3 innings and allowed only two hits and no runs while striking out seven hitters. Mike MacDougal notched his first save.
Binghamton 4, Harrisburg 3: On rehab, Chien-Ming Wang pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowed seven hits, three runs and one walk. Brian Goodwin went 3 for 5, as did James Skelton.
Potomac 8, Salem 0: Starter Nathan Karns pitched five innings, allowed no runs and only three hits, while striking out six batters. He is 8-2 with a 1.70 ERA.
Hagerstown 9, West Vriginia 7: Bryce Ortega went 3 for 5 with two RBI. Matthew Skole hit his 24th home run of the season.
Auburn 11, Staten Island 3: Estarlin Martinez went 3 for 5 and drove in five runs, including a three-run home run. He has driven in 23 runs in 36 games.