Matt Williams told reporters this week that Doug Fister's approach on the mound might actually work to his advantage as he works his way back from inflammation in his right elbow with an eye on making his first regular season start for the Washington Nationals when his turn in the rotation he joined this winter comes around for the first time.
"He's a different animal," Williams explained, "because he doesn't necessarily rely on power. He's in the strike zone, the balls sink and he's a ground ball guy. He can get us quick outs if he's right and if he feels good about it. His 80 pitches may be different than somebody else's 80 pitches, so that's something we have to look at as well."
Fister first felt tightness in his elbow after a March 2nd outing against Miami, his first spring start for the Nationals following the trade that brought him from Detroit to Washington, D.C. this past December.
Since then he'd thrown on flat ground, worked in bullpen sessions and faced live hitters in a minor league game, but until this afternoon he hadn't made his second Grapefruit League start for the Nationals, who acquired the 30-year-old, 6'8'' right-hander from the Tigers in return for 25-year-old utility man Steve Lombardozzi and 22-year-old lefties Ian Krol and Robbie Ray.
The plan was to get Fister up to around three innings and 45 pitches in today's game.
After that, and barring any set backs or issues, he would then jump up to four-to-five innings and around 60 pitches and see where he was at that point.
He threw a relatively quick first inning this afternoon in another start against Miami.
Marlins' left fielder Jake Marisnick's singled to right to start the game in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, but two outs later Fister got Marcell Ozuna swinging with a curve to end a scoreless, 14-pitch frame.
Reed Johnson got hit in the first at bat of the Marlins' second inning, but Fister got a ground ball to short out of Ty Wigginton to start a 6-4-3 double play from Ian Desmond to Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche at first and Miami backstop Jeff Mathis K'd swinging, ending Fister's second scoreless inning with his second strikeout of the game.
Worried about Doug Fister? Scout has throwing 89-91 mph "bowling balls" down in the zone in his first big league game in 20 days.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) March 22, 2014
Fister started his third inning of work at 25 pitches and finished it at 40 pitches.
Marlins' shortstop Juan Diaz K'd swinging in the first at bat of the frame, and Fish pitcher Henderson Alvarez popped out to Denard Span in center for out no.2. Jake Marisnick was 2 for 2 vs Fister after he doubled to right field with two down, but Donovan Solano grounded out to LaRoche at first to end a 15-pitch inning.
Denard Span and Ian Desmond hit back-to-back one-out singles in the Nationals' third and Span scored when Reed Johnson dropped a fly to right off Jayson Werth's bat. Sac fly RBI and an E9. 1-0 Nationals.
Matt Williams brought Fister out for a little more work in the fourth. Jeff Baker grounded out to short and Marcell Ozuna K'd looking and the Nats' starter was done for the day, replaced by Chris Young.
Doug Fister's line: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 4 GO, 47 pitches, 33 strikes.
The important part, of course, is how his elbow feels after the game, and tomorrow, etc....