The Washington Nationals' big offseason acquisition, 30-year-old right-hander Doug Fister, was working his way back from issues with inflammation in his right elbow which limited him to just two starts in Grapefruit League action when he suffered a setback while pitching in a minor league game.
Nats' skipper Matt Williams informed reporters about the new injury after the final game of the spring on Thursday afternoon:
#Nats Manager Matt Williams said RHP Doug Fister left today's Minor League start with a right lat strain. He will be reevaluated in DC.— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 27, 2014
Fister was lifted after just one inning of work and 15 pitches in an outing which was supposed to last around 4-5 innings and 60-65 pitches. Williams categorized the new issue as a "setback" in the Nationals' attempts to get Fister built up enough to make his first regular season start for the Nats after the deal that brought him over from Detroit this winter.
The plan was to get the veteran of five major league seasons at least one more start before his turn in the rotation came around in the second series on the schedule, but the lat issue all-but guaranteed he would not be ready in time for the first home series of the year.
Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan were in the running for the fifth spot in the rotation, with a decision expected after Saturday's exhibition with Detroit. The new plan, as Nationals' pitching coach Steve McCatty told reporters, including Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore, was to get back to D.C. and get a better idea as to the extent of the new issue:
McCatty said Fister looked fine, but felt tightness. Fister to be evaluated Fri in DC. Even if it's minor, Fister's arm strength not there.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) March 27, 2014
Williams told reporters, including MASNSports.com Dan Kolko, on Thursday that they would wait and see what further examination of Fister's issues revealed, but the possibility of both Roark and Jordan making the rotation seemed more likely after the latest developments:
"'They both earned the right to pitch. We'll have to see. We'll have to see how (Fister) feels tomorrow, what the doctor says, where we're at. But right now we just know he couldn't make it through his start today.'"
The latest update on Fister today, via MLB.com's Bill Ladson, makes it even more likely both Roark and Jordan will be in the rotation at the start of the season:
MLB.com's Nationals beat writer also reported that both Roark and Jordan would make the rotation though an announcement would come tomorrow after the final exhibition game before Opening Day on Monday in New York's Citi Field.