In his first season in Washington D.C., following last winter's 3-for-1 trade that brought him to the nation's capital from the Detroit Tigers, 30-year-old Nationals' starter Doug Fister went (16-6) in 25 starts with a 2.41 ERA, a 3.93 FIP, 24 walks (1.32 BB/9) and 98 Ks (5.38 K/9) in 164 innings pitched over which he gave up a career-high 18 HRs (0.99 HR/9) and was worth +1.3 fWAR.
The start of his first season in the nation's capital was delayed by a minor lat strain, which followed an elbow issue early in Spring Training.
Fister took the mound for the first time in a Nationals uniform in May, and after a shaky start (he gave up nine hits, three home runs and seven runs total, five earned in 4 ⅓ IP against the Oakland A's in the O.co Coliseum) put together a solid season on the mound which ended with a complete game shutout in his final regular season start and a seven-inning outing in the Nationals' one NLDS win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 3.
So far this Spring, Fister has managed to stay healthy as he prepares for the second and what could be his final season with the Nats.
Fister and the Nationals avoided arbitration, agreeing on a 1-year/$11.4M deal this winter, but if he doesn't sign an extension he's headed for free agency after this season.
The Nats' 6'8'' right-hander took the mound on Sunday afternoon in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, facing the Miami Marlins coming off a relatively rough outing against the New York Yankees last Monday in which he gave up seven hits, two home runs and four runs total in 4 ⅓ IP.
After that game, a 7-6 Nats' win, Fister was predictably hard on himself.
"'Overall, a lot of things to work on,'" he told reporters including Washington Post writer James Wagner.
"'We’ve got a couple weeks left here in spring. I’ve got my work cut out here for me but there’s nothing to be alarmed about, I don’t believe.'"
Fister went just four innings on Sunday afternoon, giving up eight hits, three of them home runs and six runs total on a windy day in Viera which saw a combined seven home runs hit out of the Nationals' Spring home.
The issue for Fister?
"'Basically command,'" the right-hander told reporters including MASNSports.com's Chris Johnson.
"Mostly on the sinker. Making sure that it's down and on the corners. It was up a little bit too much today. Gotta keep it down, but in and out it wasn't too bad.'"
The outing left Fister with a 7.02 ERA (14 R, 13 ER), a .347 BAA and nine home runs allowed (3.24 HR/9) in 16 ⅔ IP in Grapefruit League action. [ed. note - "SSS noted."]
Matt Williams announced this weekend that Fister will be the fifth starter in the Nationals' rotation at the start this season, following Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.
After starting the final exhibition game against the New York Yankees in Nationals Park this Saturday, he'll take the mound for his first regular season start -- barring any issues, setbacks, etc -- in the second game of Washington's three-game set with the Philadelphia Phillies in Citizens Bank Park on April 11th.
Williams said he lined things up that way, at least in part because Fister, as Washington Post writer James Wagner wrote on Saturday, "... is not a power pitcher like the rest of the rotation," and therefore, "... will be best equipped to handle the longer wait for his season debut."
Before the third game of the NLDS last October, the Nats' first-year skipper was asked about turning to Fister in a win-or-go home matchup after the Nationals dropped the first two games of the series with the Giants in Nationals Park.
Williams was asked if Fister's experience pitching in AT&T Park in the 2012 World Series would help?
"Doesn't matter where he pitches," Williams said. "It could be here, it could be D.C., it could be the moon, doesn't matter. He's going to work fast and change speeds and throw strikes. That doesn't‑‑ it never changes with him."
As Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo explained this winter, it doesn't matter to any of the starters where they'll pitch in the rotation either since they all could conceivably be no.1 starters.
"The best player is going to start Game 1 and that's how I look at it," Rizzo told ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan. "And I'm sure Matt feels the same way. If you ask Max Scherzer, he's going to be the Opening Day starter.
"If you ask Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, 'Who's going to be the Opening Day starter?' I think they would say themselves. So, let's get after it and see who emerges Opening Day.
"The good thing is, our Opening Day starter will be our Opening Day starter and Game 2, Game 3, Game 4 and 5, you're still going to have a hell of a time scoring runs off these guys."