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Fister could be ready for season’s first week

Mar 11, 2014, 5:26 PM EDT

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Doug Fister threw off flat ground this morning and reported no problems with his injured elbow, leaving the Nationals hopeful the right-hander will be able to open the season without missing any time.

“Threw fine, feels good,” manager Matt Williams told reporters in Viera following the Nats’ 3-2 exhibition win over the Yankees. “We’ll progress him to the next step and eventually get him back on a mound and back into a game. He felt good today.”

Fister hasn’t pitched since his 2-inning start against the Marlins on March 2, after which the veteran reported elbow soreness. According to the club, an MRI revealed no structural damage, only inflammation.

After taking several days off and getting anti-inflammatory treatment, Fister picked up a ball this morning for the first time and played catch on flat ground, the first step toward a return. Williams told reporters Fister will take Wednesday off, then throw again Thursday. If that goes well, he would advance to pitching off a bullpen mound, then return to game action.

The Nationals are being careful not to place any specific time frame on Fister’s full recovery but remain hopeful he’ll be able to start the regular season on time.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Williams told reporters. “He may not be able to get built up as much as the other guys. But nonetheless, he’ll be fine. He’ll be fine if we need him to start, if all goes to plan.”

Having pitched only two innings so far this spring, Fister seemingly would need to make at least three more exhibition starts before he’d be ready for actual game action, building up to a minimum of five innings and 75 pitches.

Based on the tentative plan Williams outlined today, Fister could conceivably start exhibition games on or around March 19, 24 and 29. That would line him up to start the fourth game of the regular season: April 4 against the Braves, the Nationals’ home opener.

  1. letswin3 - Mar 11, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    My fingers are crossed. I really think this guy can contribute …. wins, innings, maturity, playoff experience, etc.

  2. Section 222 - Mar 11, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Please don’t rush him. With off days, and Roark/Jordan waiting in the wings, he can take the time he needs to get built up. The earliest day we need a 5th starter is April 6, and the next day we’d need a fifth starter would be April 12. He could actually make his first start on April 12 and we would have needed only one spot start, with everyone getting at least the normal 4 days rest between starts.

    Mar 31 -SS
    Apr. 1 – off
    Apr. 2 — GG
    Apr. 3 — JZ
    Apr. 4 — Det
    Apr. 5 – SS (4 days rest)
    Apr. 6 – DF/Roark/Jordan
    Apr. 7 – – off
    Apr. 8 – -GG (5)
    Apr. 9 — JZnn (5)
    Apr. 10 – Det. (5)
    Apr. 11 – SS (5)
    Apr. 12 – DF/Roark/Jordan

    Anyone know what earliest recall date is if Fister starts the season on the 15 day DL?

    • sjberke - Mar 11, 2014 at 6:45 PM

      You’re leaving out one thing in that prospective pitching schedule. The games on April 4,5, and 6 are the opening home series against Atlanta. I think it’s important to sweep that series if the Nats can, to send Atlanta a message as much as anything else, and if at all possible you want Gio, JZimm, and Stras pitching those games. That means that, while Stras could certainly start Opening Day in New York, you’d want the #5 starter and Fister to start the other two games against the Mets. If Fister’s coodition means he needs more rest, so be it, but that opening Atlanta series is pretty important.

      • sjm308 - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:05 PM

        I think talking about sweeps, this early is way too optimistic. Just winning two of three would be great

      • Section 222 - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:06 PM

        Interesting point, but the chances that Strasburg, Gio, and JZnn don’t start the first three games of the season are about nil I’d say. A win’s a win this early in the season, and I’d say it’s more important to tinker with the order of the rotation to give Fister more time to build up than to worry about who’s going to pitch against the Braves.

  3. positivelyhalfst - Mar 11, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    I am really pleased to see this, but agree that there is no need to rush him at the beginning.

    In other pitching news, Manny Delcarmen did well again, although against lesser competition. Any guess about his chances of making the roster? I would think they are slim.

  4. nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    I want to see the Nats align for the 2nd series against the Braves with the 3 best pitchers to immediately try to sweep. Would you do something like this:

    Mar 31 Mets -SS
    Apr. 1 – off
    Apr. 2 Mets — Det
    Apr. 3 Mets— Jordan/Roark
    Apr. 4 Barves— JZim
    Apr. 5 Barves — Stras
    Apr. 6 Barves – Gio

  5. veejh - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    I wasn’t too concerned about this Fister thingy initially. It’s starting to really worry me now. Please take your time in bringing him back because he’s going to be integral in making the push. Please.

  6. sjm308 - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    Guys, let me repeat
    April
    May
    June
    July
    August
    Sept.

    Long season

    Sweeps will happen but we will be swept as well

    • nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:24 PM

      Yes its a long season. It doesnt mean you dont start out with a strategy of setting your rotation to maximize your matchups with your early opponents.

      Nats were 6-13 last year against the Barves. That is a 7 game swing in the standings.

      To use the words of the Barves radio broadcasters last week “Those 2 games in early April that the Braves took 2 close games from the Nats that could have gone either way set the tone for the season”. Setting the “tone” is important even if it is Game 4 of the season with 158 more to play.

      • therealjohnc - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:53 AM

        “Tone” is largely reverse engineered from events to create a pattern. B followed A, therefore A caused B. Not very convincing, but it does give broadcasters something to bloviate about.

  7. sjm308 - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    Guys, let me repeat
    April
    May
    June
    July
    August
    Sept.

    Long season

    Sweeps will happen but we will be swept as well

    • veejh - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:23 PM

      You forgot October

      • nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:26 PM

        Hah!

  8. nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    Mar 31 Mets -Stas
    Apr. 1 – off
    Apr. 2 Mets — Det
    Apr. 3 Mets— Jordan/Roark
    Apr. 4 Barves— JZim
    Apr. 5 Barves — Stras
    Apr. 6 Barves – Gio
    Apr. 7 – – off
    Apr. 8 Marlins–- Det
    Apr. 9 Marlins— Jordan/Roark
    Apr. 10 Marlins -– JZim
    Apr. 11 Barves -– Stras
    Apr. 12 Barves -– Gio
    Apr. 13 Barves -– Det

  9. David Proctor - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:57 PM

    The games against the Mets count just as much as the games against the Braves. Yes, we need to do well in H2H against the Braves, but manipulating the rotation for a favorable matchup (and jumbling everything in the process) really makes no sense to me. You can’t look ahead like that. The Mets have pretty good pitching too. We have to win those games before we worry about the Braves.

    • NatsLady - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:05 PM

      Plus, it could rain. It does that in April sometimes.

      • natsfan1a - Mar 11, 2014 at 9:28 PM

        Think about that for a while.

    • nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:25 PM

      Thats where I think you are wrong. The lesson I learned last year is that all losses arent equal. If you believe the Mets will self destruct and not be in the playoff hunt then the games dont count the same. The goal is to win the NL East and if the Barves are your main team you will be going up against and you can easily set your 1st 2 week schedule than do it.

      • David Proctor - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:27 PM

        I think it’s very dangerous to overlook teams. Take care of business one team at a time. There will be plenty of opportunities for our big 3 to face the Braves later.

      • nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:30 PM

        1/2 of the Nats first 12 games is against the Barves. I would want Stras in both series as well as JZim and Gio if I could.

      • nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:34 PM

        David, who is suggesting overlooking another team? It isnt like you are pitching Chris Young against them. The goal is to win the series in every series. If Detwiler cant beat the Mets #2 then I dont know what to tell you other than he shouldnt be a starter on this team.

        Either you have an open mind to others ideas or you are close minded to others ideas. Are you ever open to a different approach?

      • therealjohnc - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:59 AM

        Taylor Jordan was pretty damned good against the Mets in his debut last year. The Nats lost because of shoddy defense and Dillon “Cy” Gee. As we’ve seen time and time and time again, the Nats’ starter (and any starter, really) can pitch great and the team lose anyway. So to say that ANY pitcher can’t beat the Mets than they shouldn’t be on the team really indicates a lack of understanding of baseball.

        And if you believe in April setbacks that that define a season, try this on for size – the Nats juggle the rotation and still manage to lose 2 of 3 (or even get swept) by a Braves’ team without it’s top starters. That’s a way to put the team behind the eight ball.

  10. NatsLady - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    Medlen is going to see Dr. Andrews, who did his TJ. Dr. Andrews estimates that there is only a 20% chance on a sceond TJ for the pitcher to return to pre-surgery form. No matter how much you hate the Barves and their chop, it would be sad news if Medlen has to have another surgery.

  11. David Proctor - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    Sure I’m open, but I don’t think that will work. The Mets have better pitching than you’re giving them credit for. At least at the front end with guys like Wheeler, Colon and don’t forget Gee who we can never beat. Heck, we’ll probably be facing better pitching in NY than against the Braves. The Braves will be trotting out guys like David Hale and Fredi Garcia against us.

  12. nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    David, if you are conceding a Gee game as a loss before it has been played than why play it.

    • David Proctor - Mar 11, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      I’m not conceding Gee as a game loss, I’m saying we need to put our best team on the field and not just assume we’re going to win that game.

      • therealjohnc - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:00 AM

        And pointing out that baseball happens. Levale Speigner vs. Johan Santana, that sort of thing.

  13. adcwonk - Mar 11, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    I was going to write that it’s way too early to mess with the rotation, and each win counts, etc etc.

    But then I see that we’d have the back end of the rotation facing the Braves twice in a row.

    I suspect that our back end will be facing their back end both times. Williams, in his debut, wouldn’t be that radical.

    But, I concede, the notion of switching things around is intriguing . . . . I don’t think it will happen, but it’s an interesting thought experiment . . .

    • Candide - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:02 PM

      If Medlen and Beachy are both on the DL when we face Atlanta, our back end will be up against their back end.

      And I think ours is better – and who IS their back end, anyway? Who’s going to be Atlanta’s #5? Come on – when Gio is your THIRD starter, when Fister, one of the most effective pitchers in baseball over the past several years, is your FOURTH – there are plenty of teams who’d love to have these guys one and two. Then you get to Det, Roarke, and Jordan. Who else has this kind of depth? Why do we need to juggle things around so Stras and JZimm get the maximum number of starts against a depleted Braves staff?

      Don’t mess with the rotation. We have a good team, a team that can beat anyone, without having to juggle things around for a perceived advantage.

      • adcwonk - Mar 12, 2014 at 9:03 AM

        I hear you — that’s why I’m conflicted (and glad I don’t have to make the decision).

        My gut tells me what you just said: “don’t mess with the rotation”.

        My head tells me: “sometimes ‘gut reaction’ is close-minded”

        My gut says: “there’s a reason why baseball tradition says to do x, y, and z.”

        My head says, “yeah, but sabermetrics have proved some of ‘received baseball tradition’ as incorrect.”

        Ahh . . the joys of being a fan!

    • nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:19 PM

      Thank you for not be close minded adcwonk. It is intriguing because of the Braves are part of the first 12 games in the season. The Braves could also choose to do something similar.

      • adcwonk - Mar 12, 2014 at 9:00 AM

        Indeed, I was also thinking that, too — i.e., what if the Braves switched their order around to make sure Teheran, etc., and whoever’s left as their good pitchers start twice against the Nats.

  14. sjm308 - Mar 11, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    128 – while I usually like thinking outside the box I have to emphasize again that it is 162 games and yes, all wins and all losses are EQUAL. Sure, it would be great to beat the Braves but just because they won 12 of 18 last year doesn’t negate the fact that if we had won 6 more games against anyone else last year it would have put us in a position to be in the post-season. It is ludicrous (in my opinion) to try and set up your rotation in the first few weeks of the season to achieve some sort of advantage over the Braves. You have no idea, this early in the year who else will be strong. You have to set a rotation and stay with that rotation. That is what starting pitchers expect and need. The other side to this is, just think if you do such a thing and the Braves manage to win both series. Now you have created a huge advantage for them both mathematically and psychologically. Better to let the rotation just play out the way it is and do the best we can each and every game. Win each series, expect some difficulties in the 6 months ahead and try and overcome whatever happens.

    I just dread each and every loss early in the season as it will be gloom and doom time on here.

    • David Proctor - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:05 PM

      We could win 100 games and people would act like it’s the end of the world after the 62 losses!

      • sjm308 - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:17 PM

        David – you are not always correct and I don’t always agree with you but what I do agree with and appreciate is that you manage to see something positive about our lads each and every day. I for one appreciate that and look forward to reading as you do battle against the doomsday crowd.

    • nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:15 PM

      Actually they won 13 of 19 head to head in 2013.

      • sjm308 - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:18 PM

        And again, we win any other 6 or 7 games and that doesn’t matter.

      • nats128 - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:37 PM

        sjm, in 2013 the Braves had a record 83-60 if you eliminate the Nats games and the Nats had a record of 80-63 if you eliminate the Braves games. 3 games seperated the teams based on other wins and losses.

        I believe the head to head games against your division rival usually is the difference between making or not making the post season.

      • sjm308 - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:00 PM

        128 – I don’t disagree that its great to win against teams in your division but I am just doing the simple math of wins and losses. We obviously play the Braves/Mets/Phillies many more times then the other teams but the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter who we win against or lose against as long as we win enough games to get to the playoffs. I am with you that beating a division rival gets you an advantage but my point is, there are plenty of other games to make that up and you certainly don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket that early in the year. This is not football where each Sunday is huge. Its a marathon and all we need to do is win two of three 45 or 46 times and we should be ok. I see your math about how close we were without games vs the Braves but those games were played. I still say that 6 more wins, no matter who they are against would have given us 92 wins and we would have been playing in Oct.

  15. natinalsgo - Mar 11, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    In the NFL all losses are not equal as the Skins losing to the Cowboys is worse than a loss to an AFC team like the Chiefs.

    Could that logic be used in the MLB where all losses aren’t equal.

    • sjm308 - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:03 PM

      gonat – maybe I am just old and stubborn but I just don’t see it. If we win 92 games there is a good chance we are playing after the season. It shouldn’t matter who we beat or who we lose to. Its the final record at the end of the year that matters. Maybe in that pointy ball sport with just 16 games its different because of all the tie-breakers etc but I can’t see it in baseball. If we lose 15 games to the Braves this year but win 95 please tell me how that is bad??

      • natinalsgo - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:34 PM

        Yes your logic seems to work but you always want to dominate your division. You go 6-0 vs the Cardinals instead of 0-6 and you still don’t win the NL East. You win 6 more games against the Barves and you win the NL East.

  16. letswin3 - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:49 PM

    I choose the name letswin3 because that should be our mantra in every 3 game series. Needless to say, I will be pleased to win 2 of 3 in a series, but the goal is to win every game. The larger goal however, is to win enough games to get into October. If our 1,2 and 3 starters aren’t strategically positioned at the start of the season to start each of the first two series with Atlanta, they will be starting against another team that doesn’t want to see them … and if they are a mortal lock to win (sarcasm here), they will be a mortal lock to beat someone else, with every win counting toward reaching the October promise land. There are so many variables to be dealt with (weather, sore arms, flu symptoms, unexpected family emergencies etc. etc.) that it is almost impossible to pull off pitcher matching anyway. Start your Ace first so that he gets as many starts as possible, and then do the same for the remainder of the rotation….and see what happens after trying that 162 times. Besides, how many teams would like to have Fister as their Ace, 2 or 3 guy. And our guys fighting it out for the 5th starter ain’t exactly chopped liver either. Moreover, if our offense puts up the kind of run totals that appear to be likely, our staff will be more than adequate from 1 thru 5. Yeah, a win against the Braves is a little sweeter, but it still counts as only one win. So let’s win 3.

  17. Section 222 - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:01 AM

    I’m intrigued by the idea of setting up the rotation to put our best foot forward against the Braves since we play six of our first 12 games this year against them. I just don’t think it will happen, and I also think that it’s far more important to use the off days at the beginning of the season to be sure that Fister is really ready to make his first start pitch every five days after that.

    By the way, those three games that the Braves swept against us in April last year? They were started by Det (who gave up 4 hits and 1 run in 7 innings), Stras, and Gio. There are no guarantees no matter who we have on the mound.

    • nats128 - Mar 12, 2014 at 8:17 PM

      Do you remember the turning point in the Det game and the Stras game? Ryan Zimmerman errors. Det gives up 1 earned and Stras gives up no earned but takes the loss. Stras melts down after a RZ error and next batter gives up a HR on a fastball.

      Nats win Game 1 and possibly Game 2 if those errors dont happen. Game 3 was a Nats team that was deflated and defeated and played like the season was over.

      Would be great to sweep the Barves however you can.

      • Section 222 - Mar 12, 2014 at 10:16 PM

        I actually don’t remember the Stras game that well, but I definitely remember the Friday night Det game. Bob and FP, and alot of folks here, fell all over themselves making excuses for Zim, claiming that the only play he had was to 2nd base, that it was a tough play, etc. When in fact, if you look at the replay (1) Heyward was running on the play, so getting the runner at 2nd was nearly impossible, and (2) the batter was hardly out of the box when Zim came up with the ball. So he had all the time in the world to make a throw to first. He just afraid to do it because of his shoulder. It was a crushing defeat and I’m not alone in thinking it was one of the most important games of the season. Thanks for reminding me. :-)

        I still think the off days are better used to protect Fister, but I don’t for a second scoff at the idea of trying to put a stake through the Braves’ heart if we can.

      • nats128 - Mar 12, 2014 at 10:23 PM

        Section 222, the Barfs announcers on the radio were just talking about that series and those first 2 games. They felt it set up there season as it set the tone.

        The Nats had the Lannan game in 2012 that set the tone for 2012 against the Barves. I also believe that early games can have a huge impact and it was a tough weekend getting swept when the 1st game was in the Nats pocket.

        Ryan Zimmerman wasnt right and the same problem with Espinosa was there was nobody outside of Lombardozzi.

      • nats128 - Mar 12, 2014 at 10:27 PM

        Hit post before finishing. There was nobody outside of Lombardozzi at the time to back up Ryan and Espi. There were so many holes at that point as the bench was super weak.

        Was there a better solution to Ryan? Clearly he wasnt healthy enough to go but there wasnt a solution to step in as Rendon wasnt ready to start the season.

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