NEW YORK - It's been a bit of an ongoing back and forth. Davey Johnson talks about wanting to see Ross Detwiler mix his pitches a bit more, and Detwiler goes out and has success throwing nearly almost entirely two- and four-seam fastballs.
Lately, however, Detwiler hasn't had as much success. He has an 8.59 ERA in three starts since coming off the DL, and after Detwiler's last start, Johnson said that a major factor in his rough outing against the Rockies was that he wasn't mixing his pitches enough.
"One thing about the longer you face big league hitters up here, the more they get a pitching sequence," Johnson said today. "They see enough pitches, they get better at timing certain pitches. And the big thing is, you have to have some variation. I had the problem with (Mike) Mussina. Mussina always used to pitch off his fastball when I first came to Baltimore and then throw his breaking stuff late. But he'd always use his fastball to set up his breaking ball. And he was getting hit a little bit.
"I just mentioned to him, 'You gotta vary it. Use the breaking stuff to set up the fastball and vice versa.' I think sometimes pitchers can get through having success doing it one way, get in a rut and want to stay that way. All good pitchers, they have to make adjustments just like hitters do."
Detwiler has thrown 88 percent fastballs this season, according to FanGraphs, and while he has success by throwing that sinker down in the zone and spotting the four-seamer, Johnson wants to see more variation. When a reporter mentioned to Detwiler after that start against the Rockies that Johnson mentioned he thought the left-hander's issue was pitch sequencing, Detwiler seemed to disagree. But Johnson held firm to his stance today.
"Sequencing and changing the speeds, controlling the bat speed so the guy doesn't time you and have the barrel center on the ball, the object is to keep their timing off," Johnson said. "Whether you call it sequencing or mixing in different type of pitches, it's all the same thing. It's being able to mess up their timing. That's the key. If you get in a certain sequence with certain pitches all the time, that can be a problem, even with good location.
"He's still young. He's still learning. He's got a great future. He'll figure it out."
Unfortunately for both Detwiler and the Nationals, the hard, big-breaking curveball that the left-hander had coming out of college isn't really in his repertoire anymore. He's made a number of tweaks to his delivery and mechanics over the years, and the curve - which scouts felt was his best pitch when he was drafted - isn't the same at this point.
That's a part of the reason why Detwiler has only thrown his curve eight percent of the time this season.
"When I first saw this young man, I think I was working for (former Nats GM) Jim Bowden, and I was in Viera and a tall, lanky kid came down and he had a hellacious curveball," Johnson said. "I thought of him as more of a breaking ball pitcher, because he had a wipeout curveball. So I know that he has all these pitches. But a lot of times you go with what got your here, but once you get here sometimes you have to make some adjustments, as all pitchers do."
We'll see if Detwiler does so tonight.