Feb 24, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
VIERA, Fla. — Ross Detwiler hasn’t faced big-league hitters since July, when a lingering back injury prematurely ended his 2013 season. So Sunday’s live batting practice session, while baring scant resemblance to a major-league ballgame, did represent a significant step for the left-hander.
“I think anytime you see a hitter in there, especially if you know he’s got a chance of swinging, it kind of gives you that competitive nature a little bit,” he said. “In the bullpen, everything looks good, but you’ve got to see how a hitter reacts to know if it’s any good.”
The reactions of those who were in the batter’s box — Wilson Ramos, Mike Fontenot, Jeff Kobernus — suggested Detwiler’s stuff was good.
Particularly notable was Detwiler’s cutter, a new pitch he is adding this spring in an attempt to keep hitters off-balance. After throwing 88 percent fastballs last season, he realized he needed to add something else to his repertoire. The cutter serves as a counter-balance to his naturally sinking fastball, this one breaking in on the hands of right-handed batters.
“Give them another look,” he explained. “I’ve been kind of having the same look the last few years. Now they know kind of what to expect. I want to try to throw something else out there. Just another look to open things up if I want to go back to the fastball or whatever.”
Manager Matt Williams believes the addition of the cutter will make Detwiler’s regular fastball all the more effective.
“I always look at it from a hitter’s perspective,” he said. “As a hitter, I always wanted to eliminate one side of the plate. So if I can eliminate him coming into me as a right-handed hitter, I’m going to have more success. But if he can throw that cutter in there, then he’s equally effective on both sides and it just makes it more difficult for the hitter to square a ball up and feel comfortable.”
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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