- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

NEW YORK | When the Washington Nationals took Ross Detwiler out of Missouri State with the sixth pick in the 2007 draft, then-general manager Jim Bowden viewed him as a prospect whose impact would be felt in the big leagues sooner rather than later.

That prognosis was softened last year as the Nationals’ minor league coaches fought to change Detwiler’s throwing motion from an across-the-body delivery to a straighter path to the plate.

The reason? They felt Detwiler’s mechanics could cause long-term injury and prevented him from extending his delivery far enough to get the ball inside on right-handed batters.

So they tinkered with his mechanics, and Detwiler floundered at Class A Potomac, posting a 4.86 ERA in 26 starts last year. He believed the changes would help, trusted what coaches were saying but couldn’t see the results.

Detwiler got hit around this spring, too, going 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in four appearances. But slowly, gradually, he drifted back to his old delivery, and rather than coaching him out of it, the Nationals let him go with it.

For whatever reason, that seems to have gotten the 23-year-old back on track. He had a 3.00 ERA in six starts at Class AA Harrisburg this year and could have a spot in the big league rotation the rest of this season.

“We like him the way he is right now. He’s obviously in that learning curve, making adjustments the third time through the lineup and adjusting to the other clubs once they see him,” manager Manny Acta said. “That’s something that he’s got the privilege to learn up here. We like him stuffwise. We like the progress he’s made the last three to four months since we saw him in spring training.”

Asked where he has seen the most benefit from revisiting his old delivery, Detwiler said: “Definitely my command. I’m able to throw off-speed pitches, too, without just leaving them off the plate the whole time.”

If the Nationals acquired a model for unorthodox success, it’s reliever Joe Beimel, who revived his career by going back to an across-the-body delivery. After three disastrous years in Pittsburgh and short stints in Minnesota and Tampa Bay, Beimel changed his motion with the Dodgers and turned into a key member of their bullpen.

“He got everybody’s attention by throwing across his body and the ability to be deceptive,” Acta said. “I think if a guy has success doing something and it’s gotten him here, you’ve just got to stay with it.”

Day off for Dukes

Outfielder Elijah Dukes, who is hitting .189 since coming off the 15-day disabled list June 2 and misplayed a pair of fly balls in Tuesday’s loss to the Yankees, got the day off Thursday evening, with Corey Patterson starting in center field in place of Dukes.

“He needs a day off,” Acta said. “I think he’s been scuffling the last couple of games. It’d be a good day to get him a day off.”

Dukes is one of the Nationals’ most disciplined hitters when it comes to not chasing pitches, but Acta said he has slipped away from that recently.

“That’s normal. The guys that are struggling - that’s what it is right now,” Acta said. “He’s a very patient guy, very knowledgeable of the strike zone. Right now, he’s just going after pitches that are not the ones that he’s used to. This is the big leagues. You chase, it’s not going to get any easier for you.”

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