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Fister tosses 3 2/3 strong innings in return to mound

Mar 22, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT

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VIERA, Fla. — The Nationals planned to be cautious with Doug Fister and limit the right-hander to three innings in his first start in 20 days.

Fister, though, was so effective this afternoon against the Marlins that the Nationals decided to let him go beyond their pre-planned limits.

Showing no outward ill effects of the elbow inflammation that left him sidelined for three weeks, Fister tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings at Space Coast Stadium, racking up 47 pitches and striking out four batters during an impressive performance.

The results against an admittedly underwhelming Marlins split-squad lineup were solid — two hits, zero walks, one hit batter — but more important to Fister was the fact he emerged healthy from an outing that was more closely watched than most this time of the spring.

“It’s knocking a little bit of rust off, but everything felt pretty good,” he said. “It’s relieving to go out there and feel good. All the work we’ve been putting in, the trainers and pitching coaches and everybody, it’s been paying off. I’m on the right track.”

Fister hadn’t taken the mound against a big-league club since his spring debut March 2, after which he noted discomfort in his elbow. An MRI showed no structural damage, only inflammation, but the Nationals shut Fister down for several days and then had him slowly work his way back.

Fister did face minor-league hitters in a game earlier this week, tossing two innings. This was a step up from that, though, and an important one.

The right-hander wasn’t perfect — he allowed two hits to leadoff man Jake Marisnick and plunked Reed Johnson in the leg with a pitch — but he threw his sinker for strikes and notched two of his four strikeouts on curveballs. He also was highly efficient, getting through the third inning on only 40 pitches.

That figured to end Fister’s afternoon, but manager Matt Williams and pitching coach Steve McCatty let him go back out there for the fourth.

“We had a little discussion that if it was a quick inning, they could possibly send me back out,” he said. “Even if it was one hitter, two hitters, whatever it came to be. We had a set number we were going to stick with and that’s kind of what we did.”

Fister figures to make another exhibition start, either Thursday’s Grapefruit League finale against the Mets or next Saturday’s game against the Tigers at Nationals Park, and ramp up to 60 pitches. The club then will have to decide whether that’s enough preparation for Fister to make his season-opening start on schedule, or whether he’ll need more time to build his arm up.

“I’m pleased with where I’m at, but there’s still a long way to go before the season,” he said. “So I’ve got a lot of work and a little bit of time.”

Asked, though, if he’s confident he’ll be ready for the start of the season, Fister was adamant.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “That’s not a problem.”

  1. Sonny G 10 - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    Yeah!!!! Espinosa with a walk-off home run, his second homer of the day.

    • natinalsgo - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:52 PM

      Nice ending with some awful bullpen performances.

    • natsfan1a - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:03 PM

      I just came here to post something to that effect. :-)

  2. natsfan1a - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    (About Espi, to be clear.)

    • sjm308 - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      never a doubt in my mind nasfan1a

  3. natinalsgo - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    This bullpen better get their S— together. Facing the Marlins without Giancarlo and a couple other starters the bullpen overall was awful considering they faced a AAA squad plus Marisinick and Ozuna.

  4. micksback1 - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    Espi can stick around for awhile, maybe he can become the MLB comeback layer

    on another note, Phil Wood’s interview with legendary Bob Wolfe this morning was PRICELESS! Mark should link that on this site

    • nats1924 - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:26 PM

      oh, completely agree with Phil Wood’s interview today. It was priceless

  5. realdealnats - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    Is anyone else thinking Williams might start the season with Jordan and Roark in the starting 5 for the first couple weeks to let Fister work back into game shape in a safe way, thus postponing the bigger decision until mid-April?

    • veejh - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      Prolly. No need to yank Det around.

    • sjm308 - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:25 PM

      I sort of mentioned that when Det got moved to the pen. I think it makes good sense and puts less strain on the bullpen. Reality is, we want Fister healthy and also able to go at least 6 innings and the first part of that looks good right now but if he pushes it, he could end up injured again. You really don’t need that #5 a bunch this early in the season so let the two pups have even more competition for that #5 spot. The bottom line is all 7 will start games for us at one time or another. Its a good situation to be in. If we can convince Young to take the minor league deal it would not surprise me to see him start as well. Plus, we have Ohlendorf who also started games last year. You are not going to see just 5 or 6 pitchers in 162 games, you just aren’t.

      Go Nats!

      (Nice job Danny – sorry I can’t remember who it is but I am guessing someone who posted on here is now a fan of some team out west, at least thats how I remember his rant. “if Danny E. makes this team I am taking my ball and going to root for the Mariners or something like that)

  6. NatsLady - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Top Four have pitched 46 innings, 7 earned runs. 1.37 ERA. The bullpen needs to get its act together, but that rotation could be scary.

  7. sjm308 - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    That rotation is the main reason Las Vegas has us favored for the NL East.

    Good news is we deserve to be favored.

    Better news is after last year our lads are not going to sit back and think they have it made.

    Go Nats!!

  8. Sec 3 My Sofa - Mar 24, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Disregard, I’m just testing something in an old thread to stay out of the way with it.

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