When he spoke to reporters this morning, Matt Williams was still waiting to hear about right-hander Doug Fister's bullpen session from pitching coach, Steve McCatty, who stayed behind in Viera to watch the 30-year-old starter throw before following the rest of the Nationals to Lakeland, Florida's Joker Marchant Stadium for Washington's Grapefruit League game with the Detroit Tigers.
Reports from McCatty and catcher Wilson Ramos, who caught Fister's bullpen session, said the first such session for the pitcher since he felt tightness in his elbow following a March 2nd start went well. After that outing against Miami, an MRI revealed inflammation but no structural damage in the elbow. Fister threw on flat ground for each of the last three days, and went ahead with the bullpen even after experiencing some tightness following yesterday's throwing session.
What Williams did say before today's game was that they were going to take their time with the five-year veteran the Nationals acquired this winter in a 3-for-1 deal with the Tigers.
"He's ready to go," Williams said. "But, again, we want to make sure that we are taking care of him for the long-term as opposed to his first start. So, we have to make sure that we progress slowly and make sure that we have him for a full season and not rush him too quickly and lose him."
Though he didn't have any updated information on Fister, Williams did provide some info on several of the Nationals who are dealing with other injuries/illnesses.
Ian Desmond took a grounder off his finger this week in pregame workouts that split the skin on the pinky finger of his throwing hand and led to him being scratched from a planned start. Desmond was also sent home on Thursday with a cold.
"Ian is feeling better physically with the cold or the flu," Williams said this morning. "His finger is improving. He was going to take some swings today, just light swings just to make sure that the finger is good. He's on his way."
Bryce Harper was also dealing with what was described as a chest cold, but Williams told reporters he too improved overnight. "Bryce is feeling better," the Nats' skipper said, but, "He's off today."
FBB's Recommended Reading:
Ryan Zimmerman experienced soreness in his surgically-repaired right shoulder earlier this week. Zimmerman wasn't throwing at all Wednesday or Thursday, and the plan, as the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore reported yesterday, was for the 29-year-old Nats' third baseman to sit out of the next two games to rest the shoulder, though Zimmerman told the WaPost reporter it wasn't a big deal:
"At first you’re concerned, because you don’t want anything to hurt," Zimmerman said. "Once every day it starts to feel better, you realize it’s just soreness and not anything structural. At first, you’re always nervous, especially when you had something repaired. It’s okay."
"Zim's good," Williams said this morning. "He's going to throw today actually. He feels good and we'll get him back in there either with us tomorrow or in a minor league situation tomorrow."
Williams was also asked this morning which players have been a pleasant surprise for him so far this spring.
Here's what the first-year skipper said:
"Zach [Walters] has played very well playing multiple positions in the infield. Brock Peterson has played very well. He's got a very short, manageable swing. I think Tyler Moore is really close. It's taken him a while to get going, but his at bats yesterday were really good. We'll continue to give him more and more to make sure he's ready. I've liked Aaron Barrett a lot. The way he's handled situations we've put him in. Those are the guys that kind of come to the top of my head. There are others, certainly, who have played well, but those guys come to my brain first and foremost by the way they've handled themselves."
BTW: Tyler Moore hit his first home run of the spring a few hours after Williams said he was close:
During today's session w/media, #Nats Mgr Matt Williams listed Moore as a player he'd noticed starting to come around at plate. 1st HR of ST— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 14, 2014