Washington Nationals' Manager Matt Williams has been providing regular updates on the throwing 30-year-old right-hander Doug Fister has been doing as he works his way back from a minor right lat strain suffered as he worked to build up arm strength after the five-year veteran, acquired from the Detroit Tigers this winter, was shut down with inflammation in his elbow this spring.
Fister was making a minor league start in Florida when the lat issue came up. Since then he's been exercising and going through the same process starters always do as they build up throughout Spring Training.
"[Fister] threw today, out to 60 [feet]. And no issues," Williams told reporters on Saturday afternoon. "We'll continue that progress, so the next step is to 90 and then beyond that get him back going off the mound and probably looking at a flat ground first and then off the mound and progress. But today, no problem."
On Wednesday, Williams said Fister had thrown from a longer distance with no ill effects.
"120 was good," the Nats' skipper said. "And he'll do flat ground. Look to get him in a bullpen session in the next few days. And we'll go from there. But everything was good and the next part of it I think will be a flat ground session in anticipation of a bullpen."
Fister was scheduled to go around 4-5 innings and 50-60 pitches when he suffered the lat strain in Florida, but Williams said he's been sidelined so long he'll have to restart the process once he gets back on a mound.
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"He's been out too long," Williams explained yesterday. "So you don't want to start at that level. He'll look to 35-ish and then to 50 and then to 65 and then to 80. But you can simulate the early part of that and control the early part of that."
"It doesn't have to be in a real game for the 35. Once he gets to the 50 mark or that 65 mark, you want him in multiple ups and in a real game-type situation, so we'll see how that all plays out."
Before this afternoon's series finale with the Miami Marlins, Fister threw on flat ground and experienced no issues.
"Flat ground today," Williams said. "Came through it well and his next step is a bullpen."
"It could be tomorrow depending on how he feels," Williams continued. "If not it would be the next day."
"Good step today. Feels good."
As noted in previous reports, there has been no timetable for Fister's return talked about yet, but when/if he makes his Nationals debut, the Nats will have a decision to make in the starting rotation. Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan both made the Opening Day roster when Fister was DL'd. Before it was clear that Fister would start the season on the Disabled List, however, Williams told reporters that whichever pitcher didn't make the rotation would likely go to Triple-A Syracuse instead of the Nationals' bullpen.
Fister finished his final year with the Tigers at +4.6 fWAR in his fifth major league season in 2013, going (14-9) with a 3.67 ERA, 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.