Poker-faced composure, wicked curve are Detmers' tickets to pros

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Because of a cool, dispassionate demeanor and an expression that rarely changes, Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell believes his ace pitcher, Reid Detmers is a good person to stay away from at the poker table.


He may or may not agree with that assessment of his potential poker playing skills, but Detmers does think his ability to stay calm and not betray emotions on the mound is definitely part of his success.


"I think it helps a lot," he said during a teleconference Friday. "Not showing emotion, not giving anybody the feel like they have an up on me. Just not letting people know what I'm thinking, not letting them know what's going on."


Detmers said he got that trait from his dad, Kris, who played baseball at the Triple-A level for the St. Louis Cardinals organization.


"My dad taught me from a young age, don't let anything affect you," Reid said. "That's kind of where I got it from and kind of how I've been and I think it's going to keep helping me in the future."


And what a future it looks like for the Chatham, Ill., product. Whether Detmers could succeed against poker pros like Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson we'll never know. What we do know is this: UofL's junior lefthander is about to become a millionaire in another line of work.


He is virtually a lock to be among the first players selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft that begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN and will continue Thursday.


Almost every mock draft has Detmers being selected in the top 10. And the Cardinals are likely to have multiple players selected for the 14th consecutive season because his teammate, righthander Bobby Miller, is forecast on the draft boards as a late first-round choice.


Ordinarily, there would be more Cards on their way to a pro career this week, but the draft was shortened from 40 rounds to five as a cost-saving move due to the financial hit MLB is taking due to the coronavirus. There will be just 160 players drafted, with the combined value of their signing bonus pools at $235,906,800. The amount of pool money eliminated is $29,578,100.


"In a typical year with 40 rounds, we would probably have six to eight guys get drafted,"  McDonnell said.


Detmers will be the first UofL player taken in the first round since Brendan McKay in 2017. If Miller is also taken in the first round they would give UofL its first multiple players chosen that early since 2016 when teams chose outfielder Corey Ray (No. 5, Brewers); pitcher Zach Burdi (No. 26, White Sox) and catcher Will Smith (No. 32, Dodgers).


"This is one of the programs that produces draft picks," Detmers said. "That why we all came here. That's what coach (Roger) Williams and coach Mac promised when we got here, that we're going to develop and we're going to be draft picks.


"Coming in, obviously we all want to get drafted, but we weren't trying to overdo anything. We're just trying to get better. That's kind of the mindset. We've put in a lot of work off the field in the weight room getting stronger. And then on the field we get better during practice. All that stuff adds up. Coach Williams has done a great job with us."


Williams is in his 14th season as UofL's pitching coach (he is also associate head coach) and is considered one of the best in the country, helping the Cards to five trips to the College World Series and 12 NCAA appearances.


"Coach Williams has always had so much success in this program," Miller said. "Our pitching staff is always very good every year because of him. I mean, he's worked hard on all our arms and stuff, and he keeps adding new pitches. He's stepped it up every single year. Without him, I'd be nowhere near where I'm at right now."


Detmers doesn't overwhelm hitters with his fast ball, which hovers around the low 90s. His calling card is a sweeping curve ball, which one analyst has colorfully described as taking "a wild and scenic route to a whole other area code before somehow finding the catcher's mitt on the other end of the rainbow."


Righthander Max Meyer, who is expected to be the only pitcher chosen ahead of Detmers, was recently asked on the MLB Network if he could take one pitch from last year's USA National Team what would it be? He named Detmers' curveball.


"That thing is nasty," Meyer said.


"I didn't start throwing (a curveball) until my freshman year of high school, but as soon as I started throwing it, I had a good feel for it," Detmers said. "I have always been able to throw it for a strike and put it wherever I want. As I've gotten older, it's gotten a little bit better, a litte more advanced."


Before the season was stopped in mid-March, Detmers was as dominant as ever, striking out 48 batters in just 22 innings.


Miller, meanwhile, relies more on a fast ball in the upper 90s and recent development that was spurred by disappointment with his performance as a sophomore when his ERA rose by nearly one run to 3.83 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio went down a notch.


So during the offseason he put in more work in the weight room and on conditioning, added a fourth pitch and polished his command and delivery. When the shutdown came, he had a 2.31 ERA and had struck out 34 batters over 23.1 innings.


"Going back to last season, I wasn't real satisfied with the way I pitched," Miller said. "I had some good starts, but nowhere near satisfied with how I was doing. To be the elite starer I wanted to be, I knew I had to make huge adjustments on and off the field. I worked my butt off during the offseason more than I ever had my entire life."


Detmers has marveled at his teammate's improvement.


"He somehow just keeps getting bigger and throwing a lot harder," Detmers said. "I'm trying to figure out how he is doing that. He is something special. Just seeing his progress these past couple years has been very cool to watch."


And in the not-too-distant future, major league baseball fans may be saying the same about both former Cards.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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