Before the Washington Nationals' Grapefruit League game with the Houston Astros this afternoon, Nats' skipper Matt Williams met with reporters in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium. Williams first explained the situation with right-hander Doug Fister, the 30-year-old right-hander acquired from the Detroit Tigers this winter, who was scratched from his planned outing after an MRI on his right elbow revealed inflammation.
"We're not concerned about it," Williams said of the diagnosis on Fister. "He feels like if [it was] in-season he could go. He could pitch. But we're not going to take any chances. So, we'll push him a couple of days, redo the pitching schedules and just make sure he feels good next time out."
Fister isn't the only Nationals' starter to deal with an inury issue in the last twenty-four hours.
Ross Ohlendorf, the 31-year-old veteran right-hander who signed a 1-year/$1.25M deal after going (4-1) with a 3.28 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 14 walks (2.09 BB/9) and 45 Ks (6.71 K/9) in 60 1/3 IP for the Nationals last season, was pulled from last night's game with the Braves with what Williams told reporters were "lower back spasms."
It was another issue for Ohlendorf this spring after his preparation was delayed by an issue with his side earlier this spring and a split of the skin on one of his fingers kept him from throwing for a couple of days. Williams said this morning that the issue with Ohlendorf's back calmed down overnight.
"He's better today," Williams explained, "but he had a pretty good spasm last night, so we'll continue to treat him and see where he lands next time out, but right now we're just treating him and making sure he gets back to healthy before he goes again."
"We don't expect it to be anything structural," Williams continued. "He just had a cramp. Back spasm. So, we'll see how it goes."
After talking starters, Williams was asked if the addition of veteran lefty Mike Gonzalez was a sign of the Nationals being unhappy with the relievers in camp competing for a spot as the second southpaw in the bullpen.
The Nationals acquired left-hander Jerry Blevins this winter, but Williams has talked often about ideally having two lefties to call on out of the pen. Xavier Cedeno and Sammy Solis are in camp competing for a role and Ross Detwiler has been mentioned as an option should he lose out in the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation.
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"It's not the lack of being satisfied with the guys that we have in camp," the Nats' manager explained. "But [Gonzalez] is a guy that comes with a reputation of being able to do that role and [he was] available. And so he told us that he's been throwing. He's going to get a physical today and then get into the rotation of pitching. If he's out there and available, there's nothing wrong with taking a look and seeing where he's at right now. So, it's not that we're actively out looking for anybody else, but Mike's got certainly history here and he's a veteran guy, knows what he's doing, so take a look."
Gonzalez, 35, was worth +0.6 fWAR for the Nationals in 2012, putting up a 3.03 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 16 walks (4.04 BB/9) and 39 Ks (9.84 K/9) in 35 2/3 IP for the NL East division winners. He signed a 1-year/$2.25M deal with Milwaukee last winter and finished at -0.6 fWAR in 2013, posting a 4.68 ERA and a 4.87 FIP, with 25 walks (4.50 BB/9) and 60 Ks (10.80 K/9) in 50 IP for the Brewers.
"He knows himself," Williams said. "That's what comes with being a veteran. He's been throwing, so we'll get him in a bullpen, look at him there, so where he's at, see how he feels. If we have to progress to a simulated type of situation we can do that and then get him in a ballgame. Depending on how he comes out of his bullpen session, though, we'll determine what the next step is."