PEORIA, Ariz. — A midweek afternoon in the middle of just another random fall day probably wouldn't seem like a reason to grin and kick back.
But on Thursday, in the Peoria Saguaros clubhouse, sitting at a round table and thumbing through a deck of playing cards, there was Ross Detwiler.
His hair shaggy, stubble on his face, he appeared at ease, with hardly a worry in the world.
Then again, who can blame him? The Nationals' 2007 first-round draft pick who endured a bumpy ride through the past summer at high Class A Potomac senses he is getting back on the right track here in the Arizona Fall League.
Can you say seven scoreless innings?
"I'm starting to throw some strikes finally," said Detwiler, who has struck out two and worked around two walks in his time here in the AFL. "This year I struggled throwing strikes and getting behind in counts. That's when you get hit pretty hard."
Detwiler learned the hard way this season as he finished 8-8, 4.86 in 124 innings. That included 115 strikeouts but also 57 walks, and only twice did he put together back-to-back starts of at least six innings.
He did have a strong second half as he owned a 3.84 ERA and a 52-18 strikeout-to-walk ration in his final 61 innings as Potomac was en route to winning the Carolina League championship.
It was an encouraging finish for the former Missouri State pitcher whom the Nationals signed for $2.15 million and even brought up in September 2007 to the major leagues.
Here in Arizona, he has made an effort to throw more on a line to the plate. Where he threw across his body earlier this season, Detwiler reached a point recently in which he cut off his delivery too early. He is making sure his plant foot lands pointing to the catcher instead of pointing behind the lefthanded batter's box.
"It was hard to throw inside to a righty and away to a lefty," Detwiler said.