Nationals pitcher Ross Detwiler underwent surgery to repair a partially torn hip flexer last week and will be out at least three months. Mark Zuckerman, former Washington Times reporter turned independent blogger, reported the story:
"Detwiler had surgery Monday to repair a torn hip flexor and will miss about 10 weeks, according to a source close to the left-hander. The injury occurred sometime during the last month while the former first-round draft pick was working out in Viera....
UPDATE AT 4:28 P.M. -- The Nats have now confirmed Detwiler's surgery and say he is scheduled to begin a throwing program in six weeks and 'should be able to return to competitive pitching in three months.'"-Nats Insider
This injury may be a lot bigger than most Nationals fans think.
Detwiler is often overshadowed within the farm system by names like Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Storen, but there are many scouts who believe that Detwiler has the talent to be a big league ace. In fact even last year Baseball Prospectus said that despite Zimmermann's great track record, Detwiler had the most potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
After being drafted with the sixth overall pick in 2007, Detwiler struggled when the Nationals tried to change his delivery. The Nats felt that he could benefit from a more traditional delivery which would improve his fastball and add more movement to his off-speed pitches. All it did was confuse him and the talented pitcher struggled for two years.
Given the opportunity to return to his old delivery in 2009 Detwiler exploded through the system recording 28 strikeouts in 27 innings. Injuries at the big league level earned Detwiler a promotion to Washington without any experience in AAA. While Detwiler only posted a 1-6 record with a 5.00 ERA in Washington, he was the victim of some bad luck and some bad defense. In 75.2 innings pitched he posted a .330 BABIP and a 3.86 FIP, which indicates that he really pitched a good deal better than his 5.00 ERA.
Of course there are a few things Detwiler really needs to work on, first being his control. Much of Detwilers bad luck was inflated by the fact he allowed a lot of batters on base due to free passes. He allowed 3.93 walks per nine innings in Washington last year which didn't do him any favors. It's a problem that has been with the hurler since the beginning, throughout the minors he has posted BB/9 numbers of; 4.14, 3.29 and 3.65. He had great stuff, and gets a lot of strikeouts, which helps him make outs at lower levels, but he needs to gain more control. Unfortunately, that's something he could have been spending these next three months doing.
Detwiler also needs to allow less line drives to produce more batted outs. This is likely a result of poor control as well, which allows for missed spots and harder hit balls. Detwiler allowed 25.1 percent line drives in 2009, which had he earned enough innings, would have led the major leagues. If Detwiler can hit his spots, he has the stuff to make a lot of outs.
Now out three months, Detwiler loses a great deal of development time. It was the Nationals hope that he could use the first half of this season to really hone his skills while others held his place in the bigs. Ideally the Nationals would hit 2011 running with three top young arms, Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Detwiler, and veteran arms in John Lannan and Jason Marquis. Now two of those three young arms will have to spend 2010 recovering from surgery, not preparing to be a big league star.
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