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Fister “erratic” but content with spring debut

Mar 2, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

AP AP

VIERA, Fla. — After watching Doug Fister dazzle in every one of his bullpen sessions and live BP outings the last two weeks, the Nationals might have expected nothing less than perfection the first time Fister took the mound in a game.

That’s a lot to ask, though, and so Fister’s debut Sunday felt a bit like a letdown. Even though it was perfectly satisfactory.

The right-hander allowed one run on two hits and a walk in two innings against the Marlins in a performance he called “erratic.”

“Overall, not bad,” Fister said. “Obviously there’s still a lot of things I need to work on. My biggest thing is my command. I felt a little erratic out there. Trying to get to know myself again this year. It’s just a matter of … really it’s a matter of fine-tuning the sinker.”

Indeed, the sinker is Fister’s bread-and-butter pitch. When it’s on, as it was throughout the first two weeks of camp, everything he throws is at the knees. When it’s off, he leaves pitches up in the zone and risks surrendering some hard-hit balls.

The latter happened more than Fister would have liked on Sunday, particularly during a second inning in which three Marlins reached base.

“Again, a little erratic, left a couple over the plate,” he said. “A couple flew up and were too far inside, but the main focus for me is keeping the ball down. I felt like I was kind of 50/50 today. That still needs to be a focus.”

Fister did get things started in fine fashion, striking out leadoff hitter Matt Angle looking at a curveball. He then got Donovan Solano to whiff at a sinker for his second straight strikeout. All told, he threw 19 of his 30 pitches for strikes, a bit lower percentage than he’d typically prefer.

More than anything, Fister was pleased to get through his first start with his new team and get a chance to advance his working relationship with catcher Wilson Ramos.

“I think we’re pretty well already on the same page, and he caught on very quickly,” Fister said of his batterymate. “We’ve talked a little bit, but a lot of it comes from game experience, and that’s something that today we were able to do and just kind of get to know one another.”

  1. natsfan1a - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Wow, I didn’t expect to see a game story up so soon what with Mark trying to get back to DC before the big snow. Of course, he probably wrote it earlier in the game, but that’s what wily veteran reporters do. Old school. :-)

  2. #4 - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    I was in Viera yesterday and watched the morning minor league work out. Storen and Clippard both threw live BP sessions. The real highlight though was seeing Lucas Giolito throw to hitters as well. Here are a few observations for what they are worth:

    1. Clip looked like he was working on his breaking pitch. Still a work in prgress.
    2. Storen looks physically thicker. I was surprised though to see that he has gone back to a conventional leg kick with his motion. I think that’s a mistake as I thought his sort of stiff legged hesitation move added to his effectiveness.
    3. Giolito was impressive. The batters – all high level minor leaguers – knew what was coming but did not get the ball out of the infield. He threw free and easy low effort gas with a very snappy breaking pitch. The latter was particularly devastating.
    4. Giolito cannot throw to the bases. During bunt drills he had significant problems making shortish dart throws. He almost killed a 3B who was standing well out of play behind the base, barely paying attention.
    5. You forget until you see him up close that Giolito is just a 19 year old kid. He carries himself much more like a HS senior than a big leaguer. While his stuff is electric, I would be surprised if he is contributing significantly before 2017.
    6. When I arrived I was expecting to just see a pretty typical early season work-out. I was there mostly to pick up tips on teaching catching. I realized that something more interesting was about to occur when Ted Lerner, McCatty and Livo all suddenly showed up. They wanted to see Giolito.

    • ArVAFan - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:22 PM

      Thank you for the insights. This is the first time someone has said anything about Giolito other than wonderful things about his pitching. There’s no substitute for being there . . . . except posts from the people who are there.

    • Section 222 - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:57 PM

      Fascinating. Great to hear some actual first person reporting on Giolito. Thanks.

      FYI, Storen abandoned the stiff leg when he was sent down to the minors last year. He was using the conventional leg kick when he came back up and pitched well.

      • #4 - Mar 2, 2014 at 7:10 PM

        Ok. I had thought that Storen at the beginning of last year, in an effort to speed up his motion to the plate, had junked his old leg kick for a conventional one. He wanted to hold runners better. It was when he struggled and was sent down that he returned to his old mechanics. That was when his performance improved. Maybe I’ve messed that up.

      • Section 222 - Mar 2, 2014 at 10:26 PM

        I think you have it backwards. Storen had a conventional leg kick when he first came up, but tried out the stiff leg at the end of 2010 to as a way to hold runners better. It worked for him, and Werth and Stairs suggested he stick with it when they joined the club in 2011. He kept it throughout 2011 and 2012, and was successful with it. But when things went badly in 2013, he went back to a conventional kick in the minors and it seems to have helped him. It will be interesting to see how well he holds runners and whether he can get in a rhythm and not labor so much over each pitch.

  3. Jacob Rasch - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Fister was solid, Ramos looks stronger than ever, and a couple of reserve players had strong showings today. If you missed the game, I wrote a recap of it, complete with loads of GIFs.

    http://seriousjammage.com/2014/03/02/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-washington-nationals-spring-training-game-3/

  4. Section 222 - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    FP: “Look at the body, the frame. That’s a big leaguer.” Oy.

  5. veejh - Mar 2, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Any news on why Werth was scratched last minute?

    • David Proctor - Mar 2, 2014 at 8:08 PM

      Tight bicep. Precautionary. Supposedly.

  6. natinalsgo - Mar 2, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    Walters still has options which usually works against a player like him.

    Peterson is also bashing the ball.

    It’s early but gives 2 intriguing stories to watch unfold.

    Guys like Hairston and Espi still seem to be locks for the Opening Day roster.

    • Section 222 - Mar 2, 2014 at 10:28 PM

      Espi has options too. I think Hairston is probably a lock, but Espi has to show he can hit to stick around. Walters’ defense today sure doesn’t hurt his chances, but I still think Jamey C. is more likely to beat Espi for that last spot if he flounders.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Mar 2, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    I sure hope that Michael Taylor and/ or Brian Goodwin pan out for the Nats.Three days ago I read in the WP that Taylor was the best defensive outfielder on the planet. I felt bad for the guy yesterday, but he certainly didn’t help his cause.
    ————————————————-
    Meanwhile in the A’s – Rangers game which ended in. 2-2 tie:
    Billy Burns, who replaced Coco Crisp in the starting lineup just before gametime, had two hits, stole two bases and recorded a pair of outfield assists for the A’s. He also scored both runs, tying the game on an infield error.
    Burns threw out Beltre at third in the first inning, helping avoid a Texas rally. He threw out Hoying at the plate in the seventh after the Rangers had taken a 2-1 lead.
    ————————————————-
    I know it’s just one ST game, but the A’s are already abuzz over Burns’ speed and his defense.

    • nats128 - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:08 AM

      That is great for Burns. Make the most of your opportunities! I can see the good defense and of course his speed however I put very little stock in the offense in Spring Training as these guys are not facing aces most of the time and usually facing AA or AAA guys who have no familiarity with the batters and no scouting on them.

      As much as I would like to get excited by Zach Walters in the same way, its still early Spring Training.

      • jd - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:34 AM

        Nats128

        Those are very astute comments. Having said that I think Walters has a shot for 2 reasons:
        Firstly , he has become a good hitter so if his defense holds up he has a leg up.secondly , Espinosa is probably on shaky grounds based on last year. If Espi can regain some value in the market I can see Rizzo moving him. Its funny but I think the worse Espi does this spring the better the odds are that he stays in the organization.

        Incidently I prefer Walters to Carrol and Fontenot.

      • sjm308 - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:54 AM

        JD; agree with Walters over the older vets, especially if he shows improvement defensively.
        Interesting thought on Espi & I think you nailed it.
        Part of me wants him to improve because it could help our team or bring prospects in a trade, but I have to believe Walters would be thrilled in that backup role where Espi wil not

        Go Nats!

  8. Joe Seamhead - Mar 2, 2014 at 11:02 PM

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140301&content_id=68555082&notebook_id=68555086&vkey=notebook_oak&c_id=oak

    He won’t make their 25 man this spring but I’m telling you we traded the wrong guy. Michael Taylor’s long looping swing is almost identical to another 5 tool player named Justin Maxwell.

    I’ll give it a rest,

    • nats128 - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:10 AM

      Bench player like Roger Bernadina which is fine if he can improve and be productive.

    • jd - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:36 AM

      I think Goodwin is still the best prospect of the lot.

      • Joe Seamhead - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:44 AM

        The question on Goodwin is he showing real improvement?

      • Joe Seamhead - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:46 AM

        If Taylor can shorten up his swing then he has real possibilities. From all I have read, the poor showing in RF the other day was an aberration.Maybe a little case of stage fright.

    • Section 222 - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:41 AM

      Like you said, it’s just one spring training game. A little soon to be anointing him the next Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson. In the end, though, whether this was a good deal for the Nats depends entirely on how well Blevins pitches.

  9. NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:23 AM

    I watched the end of the A’s game today and saw Billy Burns strike out, he didn’t look very good at the plate. Saw him make one play in the outfield but it was fairly routine. I’m not inclined to worry that much about guys who are more than a year away. A lot of stuff happens.

  10. ArVAFan - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    Speaking of former Nats, I was thinking about Chad Tracy (because I was at an Irish bar Saturday night and among the songs we were singing was his walk-up music). Turns out he just got a minor league contract with Angels, with an invite to the big league camp. His locker is two down from Mike Trout’s.

  11. NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Nice article about Stras (overlook the source). :)

    http://nypost.com/2014/03/02/nationals-ace-strasburg-to-harvey-take-it-slow/

    • Section 222 - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:46 AM

      Thanks for posting NL.

  12. NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    Another interesting article on advanced catching stats (this one is free).

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22934#commentMessage

    • David Proctor - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:35 AM

      Kurt Suzuki -47 runs over those years.

  13. NatsLady - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    You can tell I’m snowed in and procrastinating before I go scrape snow off my car. Here is another interesting list.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22944

    Nats 2nd (behind the Cards) in talent age 25 and under.

    • ArVAFan - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      Yeah, and the Braves right behind us at #3. It’s going to be a tough decade in the NL East.

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