By Dave Sheinin Barry Svrluga
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
VIERA, Fla., Feb. 25 -- Out on Field 3 at the Washington Nationals' practice facility Monday, Manager Manny Acta and some of the team's top hitters got a firsthand look at the organization's top two pitching prospects, right-hander Collin Balester and lefty Ross Detwiler, and it practically defied words.
"Ooooooooh-wooooooo," said veteran Dmitri Young, after squaring off against Balester, who at one point froze him on successive pitches, a fastball and a curve, sending Young away muttering to himself.
"He had extra jump on his ball," Young said of Balester, whom he got to know last spring while in the Nationals' minor league camp. "He always had potential. But now, if someone goes down in spring training, we could see him [on the big league roster] when we head north."
Detwiler followed Balester with another impressive session -- at one point, Acta backed away from the cage, shaking his head -- although his command was not as precise as Balester's.
"It was all right," Detwiler said. "I want to be a little bit better [about] keeping the ball down in the zone."
The Nationals have not ruled out keeping Balester and/or Detwiler, both of whom are 21, on their big league roster -- in Detwiler's case, perhaps even in a bullpen understudy role -- but are more inclined to send them to the minors at the start of the season.
"We're just going to sit down at the end [of camp] and see if we can carry him in our bullpen -- if he's lights-out, and the other guys aren't as good as him -- or just send him down to get his innings," Acta said of Detwiler. "There's no hurry with him whatsoever."Hill Takes Extra Day
Although most of the Nationals' pitchers have been throwing bullpen and live batting practice sessions on an every-other-day schedule, right-hander Shawn Hill, who is returning from elbow surgery, was given an extra day off Monday.
"They want me to take two days off in between throwing just to let it calm down," Hill said. He added that he has experienced some tightness in his forearm and through his elbow, which he expected.
"It takes longer to get loose," he said. "But once I'm loose, I'm fine."Chico Gets Call
Acta said left-hander Matt Chico will start the Nationals' Grapefruit League opener, Wednesday night in Jupiter, Fla., against the Florida Marlins. Lefty Scott Olsen will start for the Marlins, and Acta said first baseman Nick Johnson, who is returning from a broken leg suffered 17 months ago, will be in the starting lineup.