- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2009

Anyone who watched Ross Detwiler struggle to throw strikes to big league hitters in March probably wouldn’t have predicted the 23-year-old left-hander would be starting for the Washington Nationals in May.

Detwiler didn’t look anything like a major league pitcher during a ragged spring in which he posted an 8.44 ERA and walked seven batters in 5 1/3 Grapefruit League innings.

But a lot can change in two months. And when the Nationals needed to summon a fill-in starter for Monday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Detwiler was the logical choice.

“We’re very high on him, and we feel that he’s stepping up now finally in Double A,” manager Manny Acta said. “I can’t wait to see him.”

Washington’s top pick in the 2007 draft was originally expected to be on a fast track to the big leagues. He was a September call-up that season and wound up pitching one scoreless inning of relief in Atlanta. But Detwiler perhaps took a step back last season at Class A Potomac and only reached Class AA Harrisburg for the first time last month.

His numbers at Harrisburg (0-3 with a 2.96 ERA in six starts) weren’t dazzling, but team officials were pleased with the way he has refined his mechanics and battled while pitching for a struggling club. And since he easily slid into the hole in Washington’s rotation, he got the call.

Whether Detwiler gets more than one shot remains to be seen. The Nationals will need another starter Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles, but they don’t want to promise that outing to the young lefty just yet.

“We’re going to take this… one start at a time,” said acting general manager Mike Rizzo, who is also keeping a close eye on Class AAA Syracuse right-hander Craig Stammen. “He’s still in a developmental stage in his career, and we thought he was the best option for us on a short-term as a fill-in for an injured player. But long-term, we’re still trying to figure out what our options are.”

Dukes reinjures hamstring

Elijah Dukes returned to the Nationals lineup Sunday but didn’t last long.

The center fielder, who missed both of Saturday’s games with a strained left hamstring, aggravated the injury during a first-inning double in the series finale and gingerly ran the bases. He was replaced in the field the next inning by Willie Harris.

Dukes’ status is officially “day-to-day,” but the club might take a cautious approach given his history of leg injuries.

Washington was left with no healthy backup outfielders for the majority of Sunday’s game; Austin Kearns was out of the lineup for the third straight game with a left hand injury suffered when he was hit by a pitch.

Kearns did take some swings in the cage Sunday morning and said he felt much better and was available to pinch hit.

Olsen feeling ‘down’

Scott Olsen, who is being placed on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder tendinitis, blew past reporters without answering questions before Sunday’s game.

The day before, the left-hander noticeably struggled during five innings on the mound with diminished velocity; he underwent an MRI and received a cortisone shot afterward.

“He’s feeling very down,” Acta said. “He’s a competitor. This guy threw 200 innings last year. He likes to be out there.”

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