By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 22, 2007
In the final weeks of the season, Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta is itching to insert 23-year-old outfielder Justin Maxwell into the lineup and give 21-year-old left-hander Ross Detwiler a second pitching appearance.
But by playing teams in playoff contention, Acta believes it's best to go with a more veteran lineup.
"I'm dying to [play the young talent] because it's at home and the fans here want to see them the last weekend at RFK," Acta said. "But you've really got to be very careful. I mean, it really has to be the right situation. The other day against the Braves, I wanted to do it bad, but we have to make sure to win the ballgame."
Entering last night's game, Detwiler, the Nationals' first-round pick in 2007 (sixth overall), had not pitched since throwing a scoreless inning at Atlanta on Sept. 7 in his major league debut. Maxwell, a University of Maryland product, has three hits in nine at-bats, including a grand slam, and is one of only six professional players at any level to collect at least 25 doubles, 25 homers and 25 stolen bases this season. He grounded out in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter last night.
"I won't say it's sad, but it's too bad that we're playing the Phillies and the Mets all the way -- and they're playing for something -- that we couldn't throw Maxwell out there for five, six days, to really see and look into the future.
"You can't play favorites. You've got to play the best team. I wish I could be playing teams that are not in the race, in a way, so I could see Maxwell and I could see Detwiler. But I'm loving this, because I'm playing games that have some significance."
Despite the lack of appearances, Detwiler is enjoying his big league stay and said the most important thing he has learned is to pitch for contact in order to keep his pitch count down. Strikeouts aren't necessarily the optimum result.
"It's been great," Detwiler said. "Everybody's really embraced me up here and really showed me how to handle myself and all that and really taught me a lot about the game. In the bullpen, [we're] always talking about how to approach a hitter, how to get them out and how to succeed as a pitcher in this league. You learn a lot from everybody."