Nationals Notebook

Nationals' Rookie Detwiler to Get Another Start

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When Ross Detwiler arrived at Nationals Park yesterday afternoon, he knew almost nothing about his next destination. Would the Washington Nationals return him to Class AA Harrisburg? Ship him to Class AAA Syracuse? Detwiler, at the stadium, did some running drills, worked out, and waited for the word.

Only then did the 23-year-old, who started his first big league game on Monday, learn that he'd get the chance at another -- Saturday against the Orioles. By throwing strikes, showing composure and delivering five efficient innings, Detwiler compelled the Nationals to elongate his major league stint.

The left-hander still doesn't have a fixed spot in the rotation -- "It's start-to-start," acting general manager Mike Rizzo said -- but if nothing else, Detwiler has secured at least one sign of permanence. By game time yesterday, a nameplate, absent a day earlier, hung above his clubhouse locker.

When the Nationals recalled Detwiler from Class AA, in need of a replacement for the injured Scott Olsen, they planned on a cameo. That Detwiler received even that much registered as a surprise, given his uneven performance in 2008 with Class A Potomac and his control problems this spring training.

But Detwiler, both in his six 2009 minor league starts and in Monday's game against the Pirates, has shown vast improvement -- the kind that has forced Washington to consider an accelerated plan for its 2007 first-rounder.

"Just thinking about the guy we saw in spring training and the guy [on Monday], yeah, [I'm surprised]," Manager Manny Acta said. "Because he had very good command compared to what we saw in spring training."

Asked to pinpoint the key to his progress, Detwiler said, "I think really just relaxing. Trying to throw strikes, and not trying to pitch away from contact."

So what determines how long Detwiler remains in the big leagues?

"It's not whether he gives up two or less runs or three or less runs or whatever," Rizzo said. "It's how we perceive -- he needs to develop. He's still in the developmental process. We don't want him to hit a snag. If he hits a snag, we'll put him back in Class AAA and use this as a steppingstone and work his way up. Because he's well ahead of my perceived schedule for him."

Dukes Placed on DL

Outfielders Austin Kearns (hand) and Elijah Dukes (hamstring) were again held from the starting lineup yesterday and Dukes was later placed on the disabled list. Kearns believes he'll be ready for everyday action by today.

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