Saturday, August 11, 2007

Detwiler's D.C.-area Debut -- The Nats' ballyhooed first round pick, Ross Detwiler took the mound tonight for the Potomac Nationals in his Carolina League (and D.C. metro area) debut. I think it's safe to say there wasn't quite the same level of anticipation and excitement that attended David Beckham's MLS debut, across the river, at RFK, last night. Still, there were hundreds of fans who showed up to get a look at Detwiler, and maybe score a Randy Knorr bobblehead doll. Count me in their number.

The Nats have been suggesting that Detwiler was on track to pitch in the majors come September. If that was ever true, the train derailed tonight. It wasn't that Detwiler was serving up batting practice quality pitches, but he was hit hard, and with regularity. Still, he wasn't totally ineffective. In fact, all of his troubles came with two outs.

In the second inning, Detwiler allowed his first run with a pair of two-out doubles -- the first being one of the strangest doubles I've ever seen. The ball was actually bounced off the hard dirt in front of home plate, but was driven hard enough that the bounce took it well over the head of the third baseman, and into left field. By the time Chris Marrero got the ball back into second base, the runner was in just ahead of the throw. Tonight wasn't really Chris Marrero's night either, but I'll get to that later.

In the third inning, Detwiler looked like he was going to escape a jam, but the Potomac catcher Devin Ivany couldn't handle a two-strike foul-tip. The batter stroked the next pitch for an RBI hit that made the score 2-0. Detwiler failed to cleanly field a dribbler towards first base to lead off the fourth, but he got a nice double play, and a strikeout that made the fourth inning his strongest of the night.

In the fifth inning, the wheels came off with two outs, again. Another double had a man in scoring position, but Detwiler looked poised to record another strikeout to close out the inning, Instead, he hit the batter with a 1-2 pitch, and that was the end of his night. It was a bit ironic, because I had just commented that Detwiler had, at least, shown good control, not having walked any batters. when he hit the batter, manager Randy Knorr came out to tell him he was done for the night.

Detwiler left to a standing ovation -- having surrendered 8 hits in 4 and 2'3 innings, but having given up only 2 runs at that point. Unfortunately, the bullpen was no relief, and the runners Detwiler had allowed came around to score. His final line included 4 runs allowed. Still, it wasn't even the numbers that tell the story. Most of the outs were hit sharply. If Detwiler had been throwing like that to major leaguers, he wouldn't have lasted through the second inning. Right now, he would be cannon fodder for big league hitters. Of course, that can change, and it could be that he just had an off night.

Chris Marrero certainly had an off night. He did show some potential, with a sweetly stroked double to the right field corner. His other at bats were disappointments. Weakly hit grounders, and a strikeout that came after he thought he got ball four on a 3-1 pitch. Marrero also missed a ball that was dipping down in front of him. He looked like he might make a great play on the ball. Instead, it got past him and went for a triple.

Overall, the two top prospects for the Nationals had some moments tonight, but they weren't good enough to outweigh their miscues. Potomac showed some life with a three-run homer in the ninth inning, but the team also came up short, losing 6-4. There will be better days and nights for both Chris Marrero and Ross Detwiler, but fans of the Washington Nationals should not expect to see either of them in the majors any time soon.

I continue to be impressed by the catcher Devin Ivany. Barring trades or injuries, I think he can be ticketed to arrive at RFK in the 2009 or 2010 season, possibly even before Marrero, though he lacks Marrero's sweet power stroke. Detwiler needs to find something other than a straight fastball, and he probably needs to add some muscle, especially in his legs, but there is clearly some potential there.

There were probably three future major leaguers in the lineup for Potomac tonight, and possibly a fourth. Marvin Lowrance turned in a nice game, with a beautiful running catch in right field, and he got the ninth inning rally going with a leadoff hit. Lowrance's batting average has been falling lately, but he's got some major ability. He and Marrero may both be patrolling the outfield in the new Nationals' Park in a few years.

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