Matt Williams liked the way Doug Fister pounded the zone when he threw live batting practice to teammates last week. "He just threw everything for a strike," the Washington Nationals' first-year skipper told reporters after watching the Nats' rotation addition work. "Continues to do that. Worked pretty fast. Got a lot of pitches in today. He likes that. He's been saying he likes to feel tired and work through the tiredness, so it was a good session for him today too."
Acquired in a 3-for-1 trade with the Detroit Tigers this winter, Fister, who turned 30 this month, is coming off a +4.6 fWAR 2013 season which saw the 6'8'' right-hander go (14-9) with a 3.67 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 44 walks (1.90 BB/9) and 159 Ks (6.86 K/9) in 33 games, 32 starts and 208 2/3 IP in his fifth major league campaign.
Fister and the Nationals avoided arbitration, agreeing on a 1-year/$7.2M deal for the 2014 season. In his first meeting with reporters from the nation's capital at this winter's NatsFest, the now-former Tigers' starter said he thought he would mix in well with the Nats' other pitchers.
"I know a lot of them, right off the bat, throw hard," Fister said. "That's a great attribute for us, so I feel like I can mix in and offset some of that stuff. Mix in a different look for the hitters." He was also looking forward to having the Nationals' defense backing him up.
"Being able to use the defense that we have," he said, "we've got a great defense. We've got a lot of Gold Glove candidates and recipients out there, so, I'm looking forward to playing with them behind me."
Fister will get his first opportunity to do that in competitive action this weekend according to Williams, who made the announcement before right-hander Taylor Jordan took the mound Friday afternoon in the the Grapefruit League opener.
"We've got [Jordan Zimmermann]," on Saturday, Williams told reporters today, "and we're going to have Doug Fister."
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He wasn't, however, willing to go beyond that, telling reporters his starter for Monday's game with the New York Yankees on the road in Steinbrenner Field hasn't been announced. Zimmermann will match up against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday, while Fister will face the Miami Marlins.
Nationals.com writer Bill Ladson posted the list of Nationals' pitchers who are expected to follow Zimmermann tomorrow afternoon:
• A bullpen for Stephen Strasburg?: The Nationals' 25-year-old right-hander is going to throw a bullpen session on Saturday while the Nats are playing the Braves. Williams was asked earlier this week if it was a sign that the right-hander was behind in his preparations this spring after undergoing surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow this winter.
"It's just kind of the way it stacks up," Williams explained. "There's no meaning behind it one way or the other. It's how he feels and how we stack that rotation. I've talked with [Pitching Coach Steve McCatty] a lot about it and it's just kind of the way it falls." With the way the pitchers were lined up, Strasburg just ended up getting a bullpen session instead of a start on Saturday, but the order the starters throw in may change going forward.
"Now it will change around that off day [March 18th]," Williams said. "So at that point we'll get a chance to put it in line and go from there.
"It's not that I don't want him to see a team or have a team see him or any of that at this point, it's just kind of the way it's all falling into place."
"It means nothing other than that it's the way it is. He is perfectly fine. He feels great," Williams assured reporters. "And he's ready to go on the day that he pitches."