- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 7, 2007

Ross Detwiler stood and posed for pictures, wearing his new Washington Nationals No. 18 jersey, flanked on both sides by Ryan Zimmerman and Chad Cordero.

It wasn’t hard to read between the lines. The Nationals believe their newest first-round draft pick is capable of making it to the big leagues just as quickly as two of their previous “home-run” selections.

“I trust these people,” manager Manny Acta said, gesturing toward general manager Jim Bowden and scouting director Dana Brown. “They’ve got a track record. And what we’ve got up here at this table, it speaks for itself.”

Detwiler, a 21-year-old left-hander from Missouri State, formally signed his first professional contract yesterday. A full $2.15 million richer than he was on Thursday, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft threw out the ceremonial first pitch before last night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers to a nice ovation from the RFK Stadium crowd.

He’ll begin his pro career this weekend in Viera, Fla., pitching for the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League rookie team. If all goes well, he’ll be on a fast track to the major leagues, with brief stops at Class A Potomac and Class AA Harrisburg before a possible big-league promotion in September.

Rarely do draft picks rise so quickly through the ranks, but the Nationals believe Detwiler (who combines a low-90s fastball with a quality curveball and changeup) has the tools and the mental makeup to give it a shot.

“When we drafted him, we thought he’d be one of the fastest players to the big leagues in the draft,” Bowden said.

The Nationals haven’t been averse to calling up young players. Both Cordero (2003) and Zimmerman (2005) made it to the majors months after they were drafted in the first-round, a fact that wasn’t lost on Detwiler.

“Seeing Ryan make it up and Cordero make it up, you know it’s possible if you work hard,” he said. “You just have to be really focused.”

The Nationals had scouted the Wentzville, Mo., native extensively during both his junior and senior seasons at Missouri State. Detwiler, too, had been thinking about the Nationals for some time, knowing the rebuilding franchise might offer him a golden opportunity to reach the major leagues in short order.

“I feel like this was the best fit for me out of any club out there,” he said. “I’m really glad. It really worked out for me. I really felt from draft day that this was the best.”

Johnson still trying to return

Nick Johnson returned yesterday from a quick examination with a hip specialist in New York, but the injured Nationals first baseman will go back during the All-Star break to undergo more extensive tests.

Johnson, who broke his right thigh bone during a nasty collision with teammate Austin Kearns last September, continues to feel pain in his hip when he tries to reach for ground balls to his left and when he tries to hit outside pitches.

Tests have confirmed that the broken bone is completely healed, but the hip area remains sore near the point where a titanium rod was inserted into Johnson’s leg.

Story Continues →