Detwiler can only improve after first pitch

Washington Nationals‘ first-round draft choice Ross Detwiler sauntered out to the mound at RFK Stadium last night with his $2.15 million left arm and bounced the ceremonial first pitch in the dirt to catcher Brian Schneider.

For comparison purposes, both Dr. Phil and President Bush had much better stuff.

But Detwiler still had better stuff than Nationals starter Mike Bacsik, who gave up two home runs and four runs to the Milwaukee Brewers — probably before Detwiler found his seat.

If he was watching, though, he probably thought two things:

c ”I don’t feel so bad about bouncing that ball now.”

c ”Heck, I can do that.”

We may find out before the end of the season if the tall left-hander can indeed face major league pitching. He is a highly touted prospect out of Missouri State, and it is not as if he has a logjam of talent ahead of him in the organization.

“I’m confident I can compete in the big leagues, but I am not sure how quickly,” Detwiler said while watching batting practice on the field. “This is my first experience with pro ball, so I have to feel it out and see how I do and we’ll go from there.”

He will be heading for Viera, Fla., today to join the Nationals rookie team in the Gulf Coast League but, according to team officials, he is expected to be promoted to Class A Potomac in the Carolina League in the near future. General Manager Jim Bowden has said he would not rule out a September call-up for Detwiler.

If that happens, Detwiler will get to see some friends he made quickly yesterday. The players and the fans embraced the 21-year-old from Wentzville, Mo. (Chuck Berry’s hometown — Detwiler said he lived a few miles from Chuck but never saw him around town), and Detwiler in turn was having a good time.

“All the players were great to me,” Detwiler said. “They congratulated me and said they can’t wait to see me up here. It’s really been a great experience for me.”

That experience included signing autographs for Nationals fans and answering questions.

After all, he represents the future, and the Washington Nationals are selling the future, particularly as they drop further and further into oblivion this season. They might want to consider introducing the other 14 picks (out of the first 17) who have signed so far — one home game at a time.

The fans seemed to like it.

“How does it feel to be wearing a Nationals jersey?” asked one fan as they waited for an autograph on a Nationals cap.

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