- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ross Detwiler will get another chance to pitch against a big league opponent after acquitting himself nicely in his first career start Monday night.

The Washington Nationals decided to keep the rookie left-hander in their rotation for at least one more start. He’ll pitch Saturday night against the Baltimore Orioles, a reward of sorts after holding the Pittsburgh Pirates to two earned runs in five innings Monday at Nationals Park.

Acting general manager Mike Rizzo said the decision was made not strictly on Detwiler’s performance but on the veteran approach he took with him to the mound for his first start. The 23-year-old, who hadn’t started above Class AA and looked lost during his brief stint in big league camp this spring, opened his outing Monday with seven straight strikes and wound up striking out six without walking a batter.

“I like the poise and the control he had on the mound,” Rizzo said. “It was major league caliber. … I saw [him go] from a minor league guy in a major league spring training to a major league pitcher on a major league team when he got brought up.”

Detwiler, the organization’s top draft pick in 2007 who made one token relief appearance with Washington that September, admitted he turned a major corner in the last month when he began to trust his ability again.

“I really think I just got out of my own head,” he said. “I was trying to think too hard and trying to do things too hard. Just relax and go about how I know how to throw.”

The Nationals still don’t intend for Detwiler to stick up here permanently yet. The organization’s plan all along has been to move him from Class AA to Class AAA to the big leagues come August or September. So he’ll likely end up at Syracuse in the near future.

“If he hits a snag, we’ll put him back in Triple-A and let him use this as a stepping stone and work his way up,” Rizzo said. “Because he’s well ahead of my perceived schedule for him.”

Dukes heads to DL

Unable to get his left hamstring strong enough to allow him to play, Elijah Dukes is now on the 15-day disabled list.

Dukes, who first got hurt Friday night and then aggravated the injury in his only at-bat Sunday afternoon, tried to convince team officials he was good to go during a Tuesday afternoon workout. He looked fine running sprints in the outfield but cut the session short after being unable to run from the plate to first base without pain.

The move is retroactive to Monday, so Dukes will be eligible to return June 3.

“We can’t be handcuffed having a player [on the active roster] and not being able to use him,” manager Manny Acta said. “So we’re just going to rehab him the best way possible until he’s 100 percent.”

The Nationals will recall outfielder Justin Maxwell from Class AAA Syracuse to take Dukes’ roster spot and get much of the playing time in center field along with Willie Harris.

Following Tuesday night’s loss, the club also designated struggling infielder Alex Cintron (who had just two hits in 26 at-bats) for assignment and recalled right-hander Jason Bergmann from Syracuse, giving the team eight relievers for the immediate future.

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