"I want to get ground balls," Doug Fister told reporters tonight in his first official interview as a member of the Washington Nationals' rotation. Fister was acquired by the Nats on Monday in a trade that sent infielder Steve Lombardozzi, lefty Ian Krol and prospect Robbie Ray to the Detroit Tigers.
"I want to go out there and use our defense," the 29-year-old right-hander said. "Utilize the talent that we have out there. That's always been one of my main goals and I think for me it would be foolish not to attack that way. My main pitching sequence is a sinker, so I try to attack that way." The approach has worked well for Fister in the last few seasons.
In his fifth MLB campaign this past year, Fister finished with a (14-9) record, a 3.67 ERA, a 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 for the Tigers over which he was worth +4.6 fWAR. Fister's 54.3% ground ball percentage was the fourth-lowest amongst qualified starters league-wide in 2013. As he explained tonight, it's an approach that requires him to have faith in and rely on his defense to field the balls hit in their direction.
"It's definitely a bullet point in my pitching perspective," Fister explained. "I'm going out there trying to induce ground balls, induce bad contact as early in the counts as possible. My job is to get through seven innings and [keep] zeros on the board for our offense to get out there and swing it. That's my main focus. If I can get past that, then that's icing on the cake and I'm excited about it."
Fister said he's definitely excited about the opportunity to play in front of the Nationals' infield next season. But he'll approach things the way he always has before. "I'm still going out there trying to pitch to our defense," the Seattle Mariners' '06 7th Round pick told reporters tonight. "Look at the defense that will be playing out there day after day after day. I think we've got a couple Gold Glovers and a runner-up. And guys like that, not to mention the infield, but outfield. Again, it's something for me, I'm coming in looking at it as I'm blessed. I'm blessed to have a team that's on the rise and right where it needs to be, has a great defense, great offense, and again, I'd be foolish not to use them, so I'm looking forward to having that defense."
The addition of the 6'8'' ground ball machine gives the Nationals four solid starters and a collection of young arms competing for the fifth spot with Ross Detwiler likely going into Spring Training as the top candidate to be the Nats' fifth starter. Fister joins the Nats' big three and gives the Nationals an impressive rotation he said tonight he was excited to join after two and a half seasons pitching with one of the strongest rotations in baseball with the Tigers.
"Coming from Detroit, obviously, we had a great staff," Fister said. "It was such an honor to be a part of the staff that we have there with Scherzer and Verlander and everybody else. But coming into D.C. now it's going to be the same thing. With [Stephen] Strasburg and [Jordan] Zimmermann and [Gio] Gonzalez and [Ross] Detwiler, all those guys, I'm looking forward to being in there. They've all got quite a bit of experience. They've all got great stuff. And I've heard that they're great teammates."
Fister was, however, a little surprised by the fact that he ended up getting dealt, though he knew there was talk of at least one of the Tigers getting traded with Max Scherzer's name mentioned more often than anyone else's.
"It was one of those things," Fister said. "There were some rumors going around that we were both kind of being out there and we were both just going to see how things played out and finally last night the phone call was made and things were working out the way that things have worked out. So we're both excited. I haven't gotten a chance to talk to too many of the guys back in Detroit yet, but I'm definitely excited to be on the hunt for D.C."
Though he was traded before in a five-player deal between the Tigers and Mariners in 2011, Fister said it's still tough getting dealt. "There [are] friendships and brotherhood and everything that I'll be leaving," he explained, "but I'm thoroughly excited to be heading to the Nationals."
"There's a lot of excitement for me," he continued. "I was able to talk to [Nationals' GM Mike] Rizzo and I was able to talk to [Manager] Matt [Williams] and I know just talking to them there's a lot of excitement on their end, but it's exciting for me.
"It's a big league ballclub that is right on the right track to being in the postseason. I see it. I'm excited to be a part of it and hopefully that's exactly where we take it this year."
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