May 21, 2014, 10:44 AM EDT
It’s been something of an odd, nomadic existence so far for Doug Fister. He was traded to the Nationals five months ago, but all of his time to date had been spent away from his new home.
Fister spent the spring in Viera, Fla., with the rest of his teammates, then stayed there after landing on the disabled list with a lat strain to open the season. He worked his way back to make a few minor-league rehab starts, then made his first two starts for the Nationals on the other side of the country, in Oakland and Phoenix.
So last night’s outing at Nationals Park carried some more significance for Fister. At long last, he got a chance to pitch off the mound in his team’s ballpark, in front of his team’s fans.
“It’s funny, but it feels like home,” he said after helping lead the Nats to a 9-4 win over the Reds. “Everybody makes it such a family atmosphere, especially with the club that we have, the teammates we have. Yeah, it’s my first one here, but it feels like I’ve pitched here before. That’s a comforting feeling.”
Fister actually had pitched at Nationals Park twice before, in 2011 while with the Mariners and last season while with the Tigers. This, though, was different.
Certainly the results were pleasing to the crowd of 26,455. Picking up where he left off in Arizona last week, the right-hander tossed seven strong innings, allowing just two runs on six hits and one walk.
Having spent the last month building his arm up following the DL stint, Fister now is on par with everyone else in the rotation. He threw 109 pitches last night, 72 of them strikes.
“We pushed him a little bit tonight to get him through his last inning, but he looked good,” manager Matt Williams said. “So nothing lasting from the injury. I think he’s well on the way to getting back into the swing of things. He pitched really well.”
After a shaky debut in Oakland, Fister has very much looked like himself his last two times out, allowing three total runs over 14 innings. He has issued only one walk in 18 1/3 total innings, striking out 13.
And he’s working fast, keeping his teammates on their toes, something they very much appreciate.
“That’s what you want as a defender: a guy that’s quick,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “On the other side of the coin, as a hitter, that’s really what you don’t want. So that’s great. Hopefully the rest of the guys can take note and learn from him and apply some things. It helps out the offense, too.”
Speaking of offense, Fister did has part to help the cause there as well. A gifted all-around athlete and former college first baseman, he reached base in the bottom of the third, then scored all the way from first base on Denard Span’s single-plus-error. He later put down a perfect sacrifice bunt.
“I know I have a job to do,” he said. “I’m No. 9 in the lineup, and I have to go out there and handle the bat. That’s something we take seriously as pitchers. We have fun, but we get to go out there and participate and be a big part of the game.”
At the end of the night, he did exactly what the Nationals expected him to do. And what those who have watched him throughout his career know he can be expected to do over the long haul.
“The gun doesn’t say he’s throwing that hard, but with his height and his angle, it’s a lot harder than it looks,” said Span, who faced Fister often in the American League. “And with his angle, the ball’s moving very good. Tonight he was able to just do what he does. I watched him in Detroit and also Seattle do that a lot.
“He’s one of those guys where, you go back to the dugout just shaking your head. I don’t want to say you think he’s not that good, but you go back and look at the video and you realize that ball moved four or five inches. That’s just what he does. He hits his spots.”
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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