Offseason program paying dividends for Nats’ Detwiler

Lefthander Ross Detwiler continues to show good mechanics and renewed core strength following offseason rehabilitation from the hip injury that nagged him last season.

The only bump in the first 10 days at spring camp in Viera, Fla., has been a slight head cold and sore throat that left him tired Thursday. But Detwiler will return to throwing live batting practice today.

“Everything is feeling great,” Detwiler said. “I think with my offseason program and really honing in on building strength, that frees me up a lot to not be so hyped on my mechanics, but just go through and go straight to the plate.”

Detwiler said the reason he feels so much better is the strength and agility training he did in Missouri leading up to landing in Florida.

“Everything starts in the core,” Detwiler said. “That is one of the things the trainer that I was working with this offseason really stressed with me and that is what we worked on a lot. That has continued with (Nationals strength coach) John Philbin here, too. It has been really good to get some of that work in St. Louis and then have it transition over to here.”

On Wednesday, Detwiler threw live batting practice and went eight to 10 minutes.

“I got plenty of time to warm up in the bullpen before we got on the mound,” Detwiler said. “I faced four hitters. I was able to locate my fastball, especially in to a righty. I faced two lefties and that went pretty well, too.”

Throwing BP makes it a little harder because of the protective screen on the mound, he said.

“Obviously, throwing behind a screen will make you be a little off,” Detwiler said. “The thing you pick up isn’t the hitter, the plate or the catcher; it is always going to be a the screen right in front of you. I kind of felt like I was throwing my offspeed around the screen a little bit, but when it is just the hitter and the catcher, it will be a lot better.”

So mechanically speaking, what is different about the way he throws off the mound? Detwiler said minor alterations that have made a big difference, and it feels like when he was throwing well in 2008.

“I think I am back to where I was at one point before all the injuries,” Detwiler said. “It still is a little bit across my body, but that is the way I have always thrown. But the direction I am going isn’t going towards the on-deck circle any more; it is going towards the plate.

“I wouldn’t say it is so much different as it is more fine-tuned. I still feel I am like overall the same, but I am getting a little stronger and I am getting a little more momentum going towards the plate. So that is going to transition into throwing a little harder and being more in command I think.”

Detwiler said he has been able to locate his fastball very well early in camp and his other pitches are feeling good.

“Changeup is a pitch you throw a lot and I think it is coming along just fine,” Detwiler said. “Curveball has always been kind of the pitch I haven’t been able to throw consistently enough, but I am throwing that a lot. I feel it is a lot better this year than it has ever in the past.”

The coaches have noticed as well.

“Just about all of them have come up to me and said that I look a lot better and they can tell I have really been working on things this offseason,” Detwiler said.

With a couple dozen pitchers fighting for 12 or so spots out of spring training, does it make it harder to focus on the task at hand? Detwiler said you have to just take care of yourself.

“The first day here, you realize there are a lot of pitchers,” Detwiler said. “Just like any camp, whether it is two people are fighting for the job or 10 people fighting for the job, if you are the best one, you are going to get the job. If you are not the best one, you are not going to get the job. That is just the mindset you have to have. You can’t worry about what this guy did one day and this guy did that day because that is just going to get you nowhere.”

With the hip injury and the missed time, some people look at Detwiler’s slim, 6-foot-5,185-lb. frame and think he will always have injury trouble. Detwiler said his resume disproves that theory.

“I think people forget about the first two seasons in pro ball where I wasn’t hurt,” Detwiler said. “The end of ‘07, ‘08 and ‘09, I went the entire season without missing a start. Even though it might have been in the minor leagues, but still it is that many starts. Even into the playoffs in Potomac in ‘08, I made every single start. The hip is really the only injury I have really had my entire life. I don’t think there is any doubt in my mind I can go (a full season).”

How good can the Nationals be this year? Detwiler said the overall attitude and confidence level is high - even after just 10 days in camp.

“It really seems like people are actually driving a lot harder this year,” Detwiler noticed. “You can just sense that the team is going to be better than it has in years past.”

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