June 2009

Detwiler doing things his way

After he was drafted in the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, left-hander Ross Detwiler was told by the Nationals that he had to change his mechanics on the mound.

The team didn’t like that Detwiler was pitching across his body. Instead, they wanted him to throw the ball on a straight line. The Nationals felt by pitching their way, Detwiler would be able throw more pitches on the inside part of the plate against right-handed hitters and prevent an injury to his arm.  

Detwiler tried it their way, but the results were mixed. In first two professional seasons, Detwiler was 10-10 with a 4.58 ERA.  This past Spring Training, Detwiler had a tough time getting batters out, giving up five runs and walking seven batters in 5 1/3 innings in Grapefruit League action.

“The new way wasn’t really working,” Detwiler said. “I was getting hit a lot. I went back to what was comfortable. It made me relax a lot.” 

The old way of pitching earned Detwiler a promotion to the big leagues in May. He feels he is able to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes more often.

Manager Manny Acta said the Nationals have no intentions of changing Detwiler’s mechanics  unless he is in a serious slump.

“We like him the way he is right now,” Acta said. “He has a learning curve, making adjustments. He has the privilege to learn up here. We like the progress he has made the last three or four months. We feel this guy could be a middle of the rotation type of guy —  a very solid one for us.

“We like him just the way he is right now. We are not going to tinker with his delivery for now because he is having success. We’ll see how far it takes him.”  

Nats plan to shut pitchers in Septemeber

Don’t look for Nationals pitchers Ross Detwiler, Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann to pitch into the first week of October.

The plan is to be cautious with their arms and shut them down in early September.

“Each guy will be different. It could be 140 innings and it could be 170 innings, depending on experience and work load,” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said.

The Nationals already have the pitchers to replace the trio. Right-handers Collin Balester, Marco Estrada, Garrett Mock are expected to be called up later this season. All three players are on the Nationals’ 40-man roster and playing for Triple-A Syracuse.

Shutting down young pitchers is nothing new to the Nationals. In 2007, the  team shut John Lannan down in late August after throwing 158 innings.

Nationals trade O'Connor; Storen to be activated

The Nationals traded left-hander Michael O’Connor to the Padres for a player to be named later on Wednesday. Washington made the move because it needed roster space for Triple A Syracuse and O’Connor didn’t fit into its long-term plans.

O’Connor, once considered the Nationals’ top pitching prospect in 2005, was often hit hard during his brief time in the big leagues, going 4-9 with a 5.45 ERA in 26 games. This year, O’Connor was a combined 2-6 with a 4.65 ERA for Syracuse and Double A Harrisburg before the trade 

“We needed roster space and Mike was the guy we chose to move, and there was interest with another club,” acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We are looking out for him. We didn’t want to send him back to Double A. We felt this was the best course of action, not only for us, but for him, too.”

The Nationals have not figured out who would take O’Connor place on the roster. They could keep it open and wait for left-hander Matt Chico. Chico has missed a huge chunk of the last two seasons because of elbow reconstruction. He is now healthy and pitching for Class A Hagerstown. In two games, he has given up two runs in six innings.

In other news, reliever Drew Storen,  the Nationals’ 10th  overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, is expected to be activated on the Hagerstown roster on Wednesday.

Storen hasn’t pitched in a game in three weeks. Rizzo said the team will get him into a throwing program so he can build up his arm strength.

“We are going to be cautious with him and allow him to adapt the professional game,” Rizzo said. “We want to extend him [in the future] so he can feel the rigors of being a professional pitcher.”  

Willingham to return soon; Young close to rehab assignment

Outfielder Josh Willingham, on the bereavement list because of the death of his brother, Jon, is not expected back with team until the weekend series against the Blue Jays. Players on the BL have three to seven days before returning to the team.

“He has a few tough days [down in Alabama]. He is going to use the full seven days,” manager Manny Acta said.   

Dmitri Young is still working out at the Nationals’ Spring Training complex, but is expected to begin his rehab assignment within a week. Once he gets to Triple-A Syracuse, the Nationals will have 20 days to decide if Young will play for the Major League team. Young, who makes $5 million, is a free agent after this season.            

Left-hander Scott Olsen, on the disabled list because of a sore left shoulder, is scheduled to come off the disabled list sometime next week. But the team wants to see him throw at least five innings for Syracuse before he is activated. Olsen has thrown no more than three inning since he started his rehab assignment        

Nationals sign Horacio Ramirez

The Nationals continue to add depth to their bullpen, signing left-hander Horacio Ramirez to a Minor League contract. He is expected to report to Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday.

Ramirez, 29, started the season with the Royals, but was designated for assignment on June 6. In 19 games, Ramirez was 0-2 with a 5.96 ERA.

Ramirez is best remembered for his years with the Braves. His best season with Atlanta was in 2003, when he went 12-4 with a 4.00 ERA.  

Acta will manage Nationals on Tuesday

Manny Acta is still the manager of the Nationals and is expected to be at the helm on Tuesday night when they face the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

“I’m still the manager,” Acta said by phone Monday. “You wouldn’t have reached me if I wasn’t.”

FOXSports.com reported that Acta  would be would be dismissed and replaced by bench coach Jim Riggleman, but two sources said the report was premature.

Riggleman reiterated that the team did not talk to him about taking over the club on an interim basis.

“That report came out on Saturday right before we were playing our game in Tampa. That was the first I heard of it,” Riggleman said by phone. “It was kind of embarrassing for all of us. My understanding is that it was an unfounded report.

“We are going on as is. We are going to try to win ballgames. Manny is doing everything he can to right this ship. [Acting general manager] Mike Rizzo is doing everything he can do. All of the coaches are supportive of Manny. We are totally supportive of Manny. We plan on going to work tomorrow and get this thing going.”

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Nationals are 16-45, with the worst record in baseball.

Nationals agree to terms with 16 draft picks

The Nationals agreed to terms with 16 of their 61 draft picks including right-hander Trevor Holder (third round, University of Georgia), shortstop Michael Taylor (sixth round, Westminster [FL] Academy), right-handed pitcher Taylor Jordan (ninth round, Brevard [FL] Community College), outfielder Justin Bloxom (11tho round, Kansas State University), right-handed pitcher Patrick Lehman (13th round, George Washington University), outfielder Naoya Washiya (14th round, College [CA] of the Desert), shortstop Sean Nicol (16th round, University of San Diego), right-handed pitcher Frank Corolla (19th round, University of Houston), third baseman Jack Walker (20th round, Concordia [IL] University), left-handed pitcher Mitchell Clegg (21st round, University of Massachusetts), right-handed pitcher Dustin Crane (24th round, Snead [AL] State Community College), catcher Dianison Boekhoudt (Mary Carroll [TX] High), left-handed pitcher Evan Bronson (29th round, Trinity [TX] College), Rob Wort (30th round, Jefferson [Mo] College), outfielder Jay Sferra (31st round, UNLV) and right-handed pitcher Kyle Morrison (32nd round, Wagner [NY] College). 

Including Wednesday’s signing of right-handed reliever Drew Storen (10th overall selection, Stanford University), the Nationals have now agreed to terms with 17 players from the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

Willingham on Bereavement List; Patterson called up

The Nationals selected the contract of outfielder Corey Patterson from Triple-A Syracuse, placed outfielder Josh Willingham on the Bereavement List and transferred right-hander Terrell Young to the 60-day disabled list.

Willingham is on the Bereavement List because his brother passed away in a car accident on Friday. He was hitting .294 (25-for-85) with eight home runs in his past 28 games.

After a slow start this season, Patterson batted .302 (35-for-116) with six home runs and 23 RBIs over a 39-game span in May and June.

Thursday's lineup against Reds

Guzman – SS

Gonzalez – 2B

Zimmerman – 3B

Dunn – 1B

Dukes – CF

Willingham – LF

Kearns – RF

Nieves – C

Lannan – P


Olsen going to Syracuse

Nationals left-hander Scott Olsen, on the disabled list because of a sore left shoulder, pitched his first rehab game on Tuesday for Class-A Potomac, lasting three innings without giving up a run. Olsen also struck out four batters.

Manager Acta said Olsen will have a bullpen session on Thursday and then pitch for Triple-A Syracuse. He will probably throw 55 to 60 pitches in that game.

Right-hander Kip Wells, on the DL because of a right adductor strain, pitched one shutout inning for Potomac on Tuedsay.