Davey Johnson’s theories on Detwiler’s success, Nats’ struggles

Prior to last night’s game, MASN cameras caught Nationals manager Davey Johnson doing push-ups against the dugout bench.

Yes, the Nats’ 70-year-old skipper was getting in a quick workout before first pitch. Dan Steinberg of The Post has the GIF of the push-ups. This afternoon, Johnson was asked what exactly was going on there.

“I was trying to get some blood flowing, that’s all I was doing,” Johnson said, breaking into a smile. “I didn’t know it was gonna be televised. Trying to get keyed up for the game and get going.”

If you told me that Johnson could knock out 75 push-ups in one round, I’d probably believe you. The Nats skipper wins fishing tournaments, he knows pretty much anyone worth knowing and I bet he’s still in pretty darn good shape.

Ross Detwiler will take the ball for the Nats tonight, looking to notch his second win of the season. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that the former first-round pick was working out of the Nationals’ bullpen, his future in the major leagues uncertain. Now, through three outings this season, Detwiler has clearly been the Nats’ best starter.

“He’s really progressed very rapidly,” Johnson said. “His numbers weren’t that great for what he’s capable of doing at Triple-A. And when he came up, he pitched out of the bullpen some. And then when he went in my rotation, pretty much end of ‘11, he’s grown almost like every start and gotten more and more confidence. He did have kind of a pitch limit early on. He’s been kind of dispelling all that.

“He still has a lot of growing to do. Good young arm coming up and having success, there’s still a higher ceiling there. I mean, he’s pitched basically with his fastball, great location, and he’s still got a great curveball and a changeup. So he hasn’t really fully matured as far as I’m concerned.”

As we’ve discussed at length, Detwiler is having all this success while working mostly with just two pitches - his two- and four-seam fastballs. Detwiler hides the ball well and has good late movement, with his two-seamer diving down in the zone and away from the barrel of bats. Especially to right-handed hitters, that sinking two-seamer - a pitch that moves away from them - has been dynamite.

Johnson has wanted Detwiler to mix more off-speed stuff in, but as long as the lefty’s having success with just the two- and four-seamers, the Nats skipper won’t mind.

“His location with his fastball has been outstanding,” Johnson said. “Just like old Satchel Paige said, ‘What’s your best pitch? It’s my “be” pitch. It be where I want it to be.’ And that’s what he’s been doing.”

Outside of Detwiler, a number of Nats hurlers have been struggling this season, Gio Gonzalez and Dan Haren among them. The pitchers aren’t alone; a large group of position players have gotten off to rough starts to the 2013 season, as well. Johnson seems to have a theory for that.

“Everybody, a lot of times, I think is trying to do too much,” he said. “I think some of the pitchers are trying to do too much. Maybe from everybody picking us as a candidate to win our division, everybody’s trying to be a little better than they need to be instead of just relaxing and going out there and doing what they’re capable of doing.”

Don’t expect Johnson to counter that by giving some big speech or holding a team meeting, however.

“If there was some elixir that I could throw out there, I’d have already used it,” Johnson said. “It’s just something, you just keep on an even-keel. Keep grinding. I don’t worry about that. Everybody, if anything, they’re grinders. But don’t try to do too much. I tell them that every spring: Just take care of number one and let me worry about the overall picture.

“They win games, I lose them. I ain’t doing too good here lately. But there’s nothing really you can say about it. Just keep a positive attitude.”

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