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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Visiting Potomac

If I missed deadlines like this in the old days, my newspaper career would have been short. Sorry for the delay, to the few of you who were actually waiting for this. Excuses are many. One is my week was a little more hectic than planned. Another is that I’ve thought too much about how to say all this because I am not a talent scout. As a reporter, I talked to scouts and used their information. This is all feel, nothing scientific.

Or perhaps I was simply waiting for my bald head to peel. Man, I got some burn. I look good splotchy, though.

I should also note that in the days since I attended the game, Ross Detwiler got chased in the FIRST inning and Chris Marrero has hit a couple of home runs. Had I gone to that Detwiler start, my views may be different.

Anyway, on with the show.

For starters, make the trip if you haven’t done so already. Easy drive when there’s no traffic, very nice Class A park, cheap food, friendly people. No, the stadium is NOT named after the company that makes Viagra, I told my wife. That’s Pfizer, not that I would know for sure. The stadium is Pfitzner Stadium.

We had great seats, right next to the home dugout. We even had waiter service. We were surrounded by some cool folks. It was a beautiful, hot day. My wife had the sense to borrow some suntan lotion. I did not. I paid.

When I bought the tickets earlier in the month, I was eager to see Marrero and a handful of pitchers. Well, some of them – Van Allen, Zimmermann, ZECH! – got the call to Harrisburg before we arrived. That left Alaniz and Detwiler and, by stroke of luck, Detwiler was scheduled to pitch. Sweet.

My brief experiences watching the low minors is this: The studs stand out. Really stand out. You can tell by watching. In 1993, I spent a week with the Lynchburg Red Sox for a project in the paper. I saw four different teams, maybe 5-6 real studs and they just jumped out at you (Joel Bennett, a pitcher, is one I recall and he did make it briefly to the majors. So did Steve Rodriguez, a second baseman who is now head coach at Pepperdine. Neither had significant major league careers, so perhaps my theory is just so much mush).

Detwiler has it and you’ll just have to trust me or go see for yourself. I can’t really describe it but even my wife noticed. His ball doesn’t just move, it MOVES. You can see it, feel it, hear it. He struck out six in the first two innings.

So I can see what the fuss is about with him and I’m excited to see him in the future. That said, let’s be clear that he is not close to ready. Not this year and probably not next. Hard to explain there, too. I wasn’t as impressed with his breaking stuff and that has to become more of a weapon. Clearly, given that he’s been knocked out in the first inning twice this season, he isn’t very consistent. He gave up five runs in 2/3 inning the other night. He has the stuff to dominate but isn’t ready to be dominant just yet.

I hope he gets the time he needs because, until it is proven otherwise, I will believe he is a future asset to the Nationals.

Another thing I like – a very nice man was seated to my left and we struck up a conversation. He turned out to be Detwiler’s host “dad.” He’s had several players live with him over the years. Detwiler, he said, is a very good kid. I know that’s not always a given with high picks given big money and burdened with serious expectations. Being a decent person, as I have noted on the blog before, is important to me. I don’t tolerate jerks very well. I tend to cut good guys more slack (see Kearns, Austin).

As for Marrero, it really isn’t fair to say much. Hitters are much harder to judge with one viewing and he did nothing this day to make me go wow (0-4, nothing hit very hard in his first three at bats). With a batting average of .234 through 51 games, he’s clearly having a hard time dealing with Class A pitching. He has a ways to go in the field, too, adjusting to a new position. Let’s just say no one is going to call him Big Cat just yet. The footwork needs some work.

He’s only 19. He has time, and let’s again hope the organization is very patient. If he’s in the lineup by 2011, I will be impressed. I don’t think it will come that soon (Luke Montz to first base, you read it here first).

I had such a good time at the game that I’m sure I’ll go again. I can probably get a better read on Marrero with a few more views. In the meantime, I’ll continue to yield to Nationals Farm Authority as the authority on the farm system.

No one else really stood out to me. The second baseman is a good player named Matt Rogelstad, who is a member of the Canadian national team. He’s having a very good year (.300 with 7 HR and 34 RBI to date). He’s also going to be 26 in September. I see future coach written all over him. The catcher is a kid named Jhonatan Solano, a recent arrival. Detwiler’s host dad said the pitchers loved him. He’s hitting a combined .184.

It was dog day, so I picked up some bags of treats for my dogs to enjoy when we got home. They did a dog parade before the game and they must have had a special area for them because I didn’t see a dog once the game started.

A final note – if you do go to a game, plan to eat at the brand new Ruby Tuesday’s across the street afterward. There’s a Dad bias at work here. My daughter is Waitress Supreme and working her way toward management. So go in and ask for the best waitress in the world. If they look at you like you’re crazy, tell them Courtney, please. You will not be disappointed. She, along with her dad, appreciates generous tipping!


Gus said...

Fire Lenny!

It's like I've got tourettes.

I'd love to be able to see small park ball. While I lived in Montreal I used to go out and watch in Vermont. It was so much fun, and I agree, the cream rises to the top in the minor leagues.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for seeing the positives yet to come. You are right - Detwiler does have "it". Yes, he's still a work in progress, but then again, aren't we all? He is a presence on the field, but off, he's even more impressive - truly a leader in the making. He doesn't try to be the big shot - just one of the guys. However, when one of his fellow pitchers is struggling, he's the first to be there as a support. While development never comes in a lock-step, he's will surely be great to see.

MikeHarris said...

Good point on that - I'm 52 and still a work in progress! And I don't have a fastball.

I just hope the organization is patient. It is there, no question. I also hope he gets consistent advice/messages as he progresses. If one coach tells him one, another says another and still another says something else, you end up with a very confused kid.