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Fister makes long-awaited debut tonight in Oakland

May 9, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

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The Nationals have been touting Doug Fister as one of baseball’s most under-appreciated pitchers since the day they acquired him from the Tigers way back in December.

Tonight, we finally get a chance to see the right-hander on the mound, wearing a Nationals uniform, starting a big-league game.

A pair of spring training injuries — first elbow inflammation, then a strained lat muscle — delayed Fister’s debut five weeks. But he’s healthy at long last and ready to take the ball for tonight’s interleague series opener in Oakland.

So, what can be expected of Fister at this point? Well, the Nationals are trying to temper expectations, understanding it’s only one start and roughly the equivalent of a start anyone would make during the first week of April, not the second week of May.

Fister made four rehab starts over the last three weeks, building up his arm as though he was still in spring training. But his pitch total last week with Class AA Harrisburg was only 76. The Nationals will let him extend beyond that tonight, but not to drastic levels. It would be a surprise if Fister winds up throwing more than 90 pitches against the Athletics.

It won’t be surprising if the veteran hurler struggles somewhat with his command. At his best, Fister pounds the bottom half of the strike zone with sinkers, never giving in to opposing batters, forcing them to take hacks at his well-placed pitches.

Will Fister’s command be as sharp tonight as it would had he been pitching for the last month-plus? It’s possible, but it’s not probable.

One thing playing in his favor: Fister will be pitching in a familiar setting, not to mention close to home. His hometown of Merced, Calif., is a mere 114 miles to the southeast of Oakland, where he has pitched many times and enjoyed success. In six career starts at O.co Coliseum, Fister owns a 2.41 ERA.

Fister will get to make two starts on this West Coast trip, also scheduled to pitch Wednesday’s series finale in Arizona. By the time the Nationals return to D.C., we’ll have gotten a real good look at him. And he’ll have had time to begin to establish his identity with his new club.

It may be happening five weeks later than planned, but the Nationals are about to find out whether their biggest offseason acquisition was worth it.

  1. NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    Baseball Prosepectus wrote up Lucas Giolito. On the low end (LOW END!) he’s a 70 (“elite level starter”) and he’s potentially 80 (“extreme”). Fastball and curve are elite, change needs work, tends to nibble and has some command issues. OK, and, he’s 19.

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=23518#pitreport75

    • DaveB - May 9, 2014 at 9:20 AM

      Just to be clear, the “extreme” in that chart is their assessment of the risk of him not achieving his full potential (which they attribute mainly to his TJ history), but obviously the grade of 80 for his potential is the top of the scale, so could also be called extreme.

    • Steady Eddie - May 9, 2014 at 10:53 AM

      I have the pleasure of watching Giolito pitch against Lexington last Sunday in a game that we were also lucky enough to see Wilson’s minor-league rehab.

      (By the way, the Buffalo’s tater was also strong evidence that his power is mostly back already. He seemed a long way from getting all of the pitch and still hit a line drive way to the opposite field that bounced off the top of about a 15 foot high wall maybe between 10 and 20 feet fair. The fact that it was against minor league pitching is irrelevant; either you have that kind of power back or you don’t. He did. And does.)

      The baseball prospectus assessment of Giolito you linked seem to me to be pretty much right on. He was alternating between innings and between batters, between being very impressive and dominating, and promising but needs work and polish. His curve was most impressive, and totally dominating even at the major league level — when it was on. Left low-A hitters completely bewildered and locked up on several occasions. Heater was intimidating and with nice movement when he could command it. I’d say about half of six hits against him were lucky contact with breaking stuff that broke bats and blooped in as pop fly singles or seeing eye grounders. His heater seemed to alternate between bottom of the zone deadly and left up too high, getting crushed, and not being able to find the zone at all for two or three batters at a time.

      In sum, stuff is there and very impressive and intimidating for a 19 year old in his first full pro season, but he definitely needs at least a couple more seasons of work and polish. But a VERY exciting prospect.

      • Sonny G 10 - May 9, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        Some command issues may be due to TJ recovery ala Zimnn and Stras.

  2. NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    I like that Fister’s first start is in an AL park, where he won’t have to bat and can keep to his regular routine. Don’t know if that was a consideration in scheduling (I know they wanted to keep Stras on normal rest), but seems better than pushing him to start Tuesday against Kershaw. In the meantime, Treinan wasn’t as much of a pushover as people might have anticipated, so all’s well–so far!

    • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      Also, Fister’s last start against the A’s was Game 4 of the NLDS. He didn’t win, but the Tigers did.

  3. nats128 - May 9, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Marlins in sole possession of 1st place. Give those youngsters some confidence and they are on a roll. Of course they have the Dodgers and Giants on there west coast trip there luck had them starting in San Diego where the home team cant score runs.

    • nats128 - May 9, 2014 at 9:29 AM

      Only run scored by the Padres last night in a 11 inning game was a HR by the pitcher Ian Kennedy.

    • adcwonk - May 9, 2014 at 9:55 AM

      And Marlins have MLB’s worst road record. 2-10. (I’m on the road, going from memory. No tidbits today)

  4. alexva6 - May 9, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    I’ll take five innings, 1-2 runs and be happy, good time for Detwiler to step up and give them 2-3 strong innings.

    • DaveB - May 9, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      Would love this … although I think it is important to change the narrative around Det right now (and build back his confidence as a reliever), so if he had one good inning I would pull him and celebrate the success.

    • 6ID20 - May 9, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      No. Seeing Det tonight with the rest of the bullpen rested signals mop up. Don’t want that.

      • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Tell me you would have predicted before the season that Ross Detwiler would be the weak link in our bullpen.

  5. Eric - May 9, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Marlins in first…amazing. And, We have the As while the Marlins have the Padres…

    BUT THEN! Here’s what the rest of May looks like

    We have:
    @Dbacks: 13 – 24
    Mets: 16 – 17
    Reds: 15 – 18
    @Pirates: 14 – 20
    Marlins
    Rangers: 18 – 17

    The Marlins have:
    @Dodgers: 19 – 17
    @Giants: 22 – 13
    Phillies: ::: sad trombone :::
    Brewers: 22 – 13
    @Nats
    Braves

    Will be very interesting to see where thing sit at the end of May

  6. masterfishkeeper - May 9, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Nice report on Jake Johansen here:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/prospect-watch-pitching-behemoths/

  7. Section 222 - May 9, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Everyone keeps dismissing the Marlins because of their road record so far, but it might very well be more a function of them being cold at the beginning of the season. They got swept by both the Nats and the Phillies on the road in the second week. That’s 6 of the 10 losses. They took a game in Atlanta and one in NY, and all but one of the games in those series was close. Then they had a nice long homestand, just like the Nats did, and they caught fire, going 8-1. And it wasn’t against awful teams either (Braves, Dodgers,and Mets). The Nats had a nice long homestand against the Cards, Angels and Padres, and went 5-6.

    The Marlins have a talented young pitching staff led by the astounding Jose Fernandez, and they have Gian Carlo Stanton. Those guys aren’t going to suddenly collapse and neither will the Marlins I predict.

    • 6ID20 - May 9, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      The Marlins will collapse. It’s a given. The only question is will it happen during the season or after they win the World Series and Loria fire sales them.

      • Section 222 - May 9, 2014 at 11:12 AM

        Haha! Well played.

    • Hiram Hover - May 9, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      I agree they won’t keep losing like that on the road, but they also won’t keep winning like that at home – the imbalance will even out over time to something more normal.

      As for their talent:

      The pitching (much of it) is for real–they have a budding big three, but their BP is mediocre.

      The hitting (much of it) is not for real–McGhee is way overperforming, and Salty especially.

  8. waddueyeno - May 9, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    as for desi – see svrluga in the post:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/sports/wp/2014/05/09/the-wife-chelsey-desmond/?hpid=z1

    playoff baby?

  9. langleyclub - May 9, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Fernandez is a stud, but the question for the Marlins is whether Nathan Eovaldi, Tom Koehler and Henderson Alvarez can continue to dominate (they are have ERA under 2.75). I have my doubts; between the 3 of them, they have only 1 season of more than 143 big league innings. Really hard to see those three all throwing 200 innings at anything close to the effectiveness that they have displayed so far. Eovaldi has a nice arm, but none of those three were considered elite prospects.

    Also, if/when any of them gets hurt, the Marlins have no starting pitching depth as Brad Hand and Kevin Slowey are marginal at best. Clearly, the Marlins are better than everyone thought heading into the season (they offense is only going to get better as Yelich/Ozuna/Hechevarria mature, but I think .500 is the ceiling for them this year.

    • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      Just as with Atlanta, you can begin with a lot of great pitching, but it remains to be seen how these guys are after 150 innings or so. I feel the Barves made a mistake in not keeping Huddy, a veteran presence with a lot of knowlege of how to pitch in “adverse” circumstances.

      Same for the Fish, where is their veteran to calm down the young guys when the going gets rough–and it will.

      • Eric - May 9, 2014 at 12:05 PM

        It already has for the Fish…weren’t they like 6 games under .500 at one point this season?

        WIll be interesting to see how the Braves proceed from here…

  10. Doc - May 9, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Dave Dombroski was literally made fun of for the Fister trade.

    But both Krol and Ray are being successful on the starting roster of arguably MLB’s best team.

    Anyhoo, we’ll see how it plays out. Fister will need to get out in front on this trade.

    • therealjohnc - May 9, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Let’s not overstate what Detroit has gotten out of the trade. Ian Krol has pitched ten innings. Lombardozzi was traded for a guy who has since been released, for cryin’ out loud. Ray had a nice MLB* debut … against the *Astros.

      Yes, the Tigers are off to a good start, but Dombrowski being made fun of for the Fister trade is not the same as Dombrowski being made fun of for being a lousy GM. DD is regarded as one of the better GMs in baseball, and the Tigers are off to a good start because of their starting rotation and because they somehow managed to dump Prince Fiedler on the Rangers for Ian Kinsler – who is not only playing better defense than Fielder but is actually outhitting him. All while being cheaper both on a per-year basis and in number of years of commitment.

      DD was criticized for the Fister trade not because he didn’t get good players back, but because of the general consensus around the league that he could have gotten much better players for Fister.

    • Hiram Hover - May 9, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      What amuses me is that Dave D’s initial excuse was, well, we made this trade for the long term.

      Now Ray makes one start and the excuse is flipped on its head – hey, it’s the first week of May, and we win this trade because Fister isn’t making his first start for three more days!

      • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Somehow, I don’t think that’s an exact quote from Dave D. From his fans… yes. Fans always live and die with one start judge who “wins” or “loses” a trade like a horse race.

      • Hiram Hover - May 9, 2014 at 12:05 PM

        Right – not his excuse, but one made on his behalf, and picked up by some nervous nellies among our fanbase.

    • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      I’m not ready to call Krol “successful” after 10 innings. He gave up runs in four of his appearances (1 unearned). He has inherited nine runners and four have scored (though three were in one game). Remember how hot he was for us before htters got a good look at him?

      Ray could be good, but bear in mind they are starting him off against the Astros and then the Twins, whereas Fister is going against Oakland, and going against them after more than a month on the DL. I hope he’ll be great, I expect him to be great, but he could have some early bumps on the bump… (Sorry).

      Like others, I hope the trade works out well for both parties. That bodes well for future trades.

      • Section 222 - May 9, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        Totally agree about Krol. Remember he was great for nine innings for us too. Some annointed him our future closer.

        Ray’s value will not be determined this season, no matter how well or poorly he does. Fister’s will. But that doesn’t mean that his first start back is a make or break outing.

        It’s kind of funny that the team the Nats have been such a big trading partner for, is now one of the best teams in baseball.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 9, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        “It’s kind of funny that the team the Nats have been such a big trading partner for, is now one of the best teams in baseball.”

        Yeah, and the Tigers aren’t doing so bad either.

  11. Section 222 - May 9, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    I always thought the trade was a good one for both teams. Ray was blocked here, but has a high ceiling. We needed Fister, they wanted to dump Fister’s salary. Krol might work out, he might not.

    I just want Fister to live up to expectations. Don’t really care about whether we “won” the trade.

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 9, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      As I recall, the Padres felt like they could have gotten more for Brian Lawrence.

      You pays yer money and you takes yer chances.

  12. Waddueyeno - May 9, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Looking forward to a late night of baseball

  13. micksback1 - May 9, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    Big DC night again, return of Caliguia, ha ha I mean Fister (bad joke) and game 3 with Wiz, and of course what joke of a player our DC football team will chose, hope its another great and fun filled evening!

    Overall, the Nats are sitting in a great place. With all the injuries, to be basically tied for first after the Braves won 5 of 6 against us, it feels good right now. I really felt that the Braves had to be up by more than 5-6 games in the loss column before the Nats get healthy. We could really roll come the summer.

  14. NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    OK, I don’t know if this will come out right. Someone asked about relievers with streaks of scoreless innings. Here is the list.

    Scoreless relievers

    • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      I’m sure there’s a better way, but you won’t be surprised who’s on top of the list, he actually appears twice.

    • Section 222 - May 9, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      Thanks NL. That’s a really interesting list. Old friend Ray King is even on it. And the greatest reliever of all time, Mariano Rivera, is on it only once – -in 1999.

      • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        Oh, by the way, there is no highlight clip of Kershaw picking off Rendon. I’ll have to look at the archive of the game to see if Kershaw’s move is a balk.

      • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        When you look at that list you feel Krol has a ways to go.

      • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 9, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        I didn’t get to look at a replay besides the (bad) angle they had on TV at the time, but I had the impression when seeing it that the ump saw him get caught leaning and called him out on that, as much as anything.

      • Section 222 - May 9, 2014 at 1:38 PM

        That could be. But it looked to me like Rendon started leaning when Kershaw started leaning, i’e., moving toward home plate. Seemed pretty clear that there was an effort to make him think he was going to pitch, which should be a balk. At least that’s what FP thought. d

    • Sec 3 My Sofa - May 9, 2014 at 1:13 PM

      Interesting. Dominated by 21st c. pitchers. Probably a function of how relief roles have changed, going more and more to shorter and shorter appearances, one inning or less. In context, that makes Chris Short’s tied-for-fifth more impressive–the guy didn’t give up a run over 32 appearances over five seasons.

    • NIWatcher - May 9, 2014 at 4:45 PM

      Can you prepare a similar table based on scoreless innings for relievers, rather than scoreless appearances?

      • NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 5:02 PM

        Not while I’m giving a piano lesson. :) I’ll try later.

  15. natsfan1a - May 9, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    The piece from which the Philly blog item quotes is worth a gander as well.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/phillies/20140509_Phillies_ticket_sales_down_from_last_year.html

    Makes me think back to the day when Phillies phans were held up by some in the media (and elsewhere) as shining examples of devotion. We were also regaled with stories of how Philly was a good baseball town and DC wasn’t. hmmm…so attendance goes down when the team loses there, too? (And vice versa.) Who’d a thunk it? Well, Jayson Werth, for one. ;-)

  16. NatsLady - May 9, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Regarding Span (.250/.298/.339.

    The difference between a good and bad lineup in baseball, for instance, is so small that if a manager deeply believes in a non-optimal strategy (like putting a .300 on-base percentage guy in the leadoff spot) there’s a decent chance it will not hurt the team much, especially if that leadoff hitter is widely respected in the clubhouse. –Joe Posnanski May 9, 2014, 10:36 AM EDT

    This summarizes my feelings exactly.

    BTW, the whole article is a lot of fun. I just grabbed an aside.

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/05/09/ned-yost-almost-broke-the-intentional-walk-rage-system-last-night/

    • Section 222 - May 9, 2014 at 2:28 PM

      Posnanski is a great baseball writer, and often hilarious. Thanks for the link. His Sanford & Son reference, and then his explanation for why he explained what it was, will entertain many of the regular commenters here.

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