Doug Fister’s unclear timetable, and notes on Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond
Doug Fister threw his first bullpen session on Friday following nearly two weeks of rest for his inflamed elbow, and on Saturday morning his arm felt good, according to Manager Matt Williams. The manager said he spoke with Fister on Saturday morning and was pleased to hear he felt good.
The next step in Fister’s timetable, however, is unclear. Depending on how he feels following treatment on Saturday and Sunday, he could pitch in a minor league game as soon as Sunday.
The Nationals will not require a fifth starter until April 6, so they have ample time to get Fister innings before then. Williams is targeting March 19 as a day to begin ordering the starting rotation in the regular season order.
>>> Ryan Zimmerman is back in the lineup on Saturday after sitting out of games for four days because of soreness in his shoulder, which was surgically repaired before the 2013 season. Zimmerman participated in workouts on Friday, taking grounders and throwing across the diamond, and feels better, Williams said. Zimmerman will be back in the field at third base in a game on Sunday pending any residual soreness.
“We’re progressing him slow but we need to get him ABs to make sure,” Williams said. He said he believes Zimmerman’s shoulder is experiencing regular soreness for this point of spring training, and because the infielder’s workload has increased with drills at first base.
Williams said it isn’t clear yet when Zimmerman will make his debut at first base this spring. Because of the rest, Williams is primarily concerned with getting Zimmerman the needed work at third base. If Zimmerman doesn’t play first base in the spring, Williams said he believes he could still handle playing there during the regular season.
“He’s done enough work so far that even if it was the regular season that he’ll be fine,” he said. “We’ll see if we can do that a few times in the next 10 days. But we have to monitor him. I want him to play third first, no pun intended, and first second.”
Ideally Zimmerman would play first base, a new position for him, during the spring in a low pressure environment before he does so in the regular season. Williams said he could send Zimmerman to get work at first in a minor league game if needed.
>>> Ian Desmond will return to the lineup on Sunday after resting the previous three days with a chest cold and cut on a finger on his throwing hand, Williams said. Bryce Harper is playing Saturday despite still feeling the lingering effects of a cold.
>>> Ryan Mattheus (chest) and Ross Ohlendorf (back) are expected to return to games later this week after extended time away dealing with injuries, Williams said. That, however, would leave each pitcher with about a week or so to build up enough innings. Both players are competing for a spot in the Nationals bullpen, but now it is increasingly slim that either will be with the team when the team breaks camp.
Williams, however, wouldn’t rule out the possibility that either could still earn a spot.
Mattheus “is certainly behind the eight ball in that regard and needs to build himself up,” Williams said. “That doesn’t mean he’s not going to break with us. But we have to evaluate that.”
If neither is ready, Tanner Roark could have a clearer path to make the team. Roark is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, but has experienced as both a long reliever and starter in his minor league career, and did both well during his stint in the majors last season.
“His versatility in the pitching staff helps,” Williams said. “He can start he can relieve, he can start. That’s nothing but a positive for him to break with the club.”
Nationals at Marlins lineups and discussion thread
Stephen Strasburg makes his third start of the spring and faces the Marlins in Jupiter. Jose Fernandez, the NL Rookie of the Year, starts for the Marlins. Although it is only spring, it is a marquee and exciting matchup.
1. Anthony Rendon, 2B
2. Danny Espinosa, SS
3. Ryan Zimmmerman, DH
4. Bryce Harper, LF
5. Wilson Ramos, C
6. Adam LaRoche, 1B
7. Steven Souza, Jr., RF
8. Nate McLouth, CF
9. Will Rhymes, 3B
-- Stephen Strasburg, SP
Pitching order: Stephen Strasburg, Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins, Xavier Cedeno and Tyler Clippard.
1. Rafael Furcal, 2B
2. Donovan Solano, SS
3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
4. Casey McGehee, DH
5. Marcell Ozuna, CF
6. Brian Bogusevic, RF
7. Reed Johnson, LF
8. Ty Wigginton, 1B
9. Josh Rodriguez, 3B
-- Jose Fernandez, SP
Mark Lerner on Nationals Park roof: ‘I don’t believe it’s going to happen’
After a months of silence about the issue, Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner said it is unlikely that a retractable roof will be added to Nationals Park, an idea presented by managing owner Theodore N. Lerner to city officals and flatly rejected last summer. Mark Lerner made the comments on Friday during Comcast’s broadcast of the Wizards‘ game against the Magic in Orlando, which is about an hour from Viera, where the Nationals host spring training.
Despite numerous requests, Mark Lerner has not been made available to speak with reporters at spring training. But he finally addressed the roof issue during Friday’s broadcast.
“I don’t believe it’s going to happen,” he said. “We inquired. We’re always looking to do things that are unique. It was a way to have more events in Nationals Park. It was an idea we were throwing around in a room. It wasn’t that we specifically asked for it. We were just talking about it.”
In November, Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Theodore Lerner pitched him last summer on a plan to have the city build a retractable roof over Nationals Park, which Gray rejected. Nationals Park was built with more than $600 million in taxpayer financing and opened in 2008. One city official speculated in November that a roof could cost close to $300 million.
Mark Lerner was also asked Friday about the state of the team. He said he is hopeful injured pitcher Doug Fister can return to the mound in game next week. He also said he was pleased with how new Manager Matt Williams has run spring training. As for analysts picking the Nationals to be a World Series contender, Lerner was cautious.
“I never like that,” he said. “Our goal is to play a good season, get in the playoffs. Take it one at a time. I’m not a guy for predictions. We’re doing the best we can. [General Manager] Mike [Rizzo] has done a fabulous job of building the team. We’ll see how it goes.”
The Nationals have been pushing to host an all-star game in Washington, an effort MLB Commissioner Bud Selig referred to as a “determined pitch.” The soonest the Nationals could host an all-star game is 2017. Selig has said the Nationals are a “prime candidate” to host a game.
“I sure hope so,” Lerner said. “I’ve been lobbying the commissioner since 2007. I’m not going to stop until we get it. It’s in his hands.”
Taylor Jordan’s rough start, Michael Gonzalez’s debut -- and other notes
Until Friday’s 12-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Taylor Jordan had looked sharp this spring. In his first few starts this spring, he was nervous about competing for the final spot in the Nationals’ starting rotation. He was also concerned about how his surgically-repaired ankle would respond. But his fears were alleviated and he pitched well.
Against the Tigers, however, Taylor’s command was shaky. His secondary pitches were hit. He didn’t feel he was getting the expected strike calls low in the zone. He adjusted, as a result, and his elevated breaking balls were knocked around. After he allowed four runs on seven hits over three innings, the right-hander was unhappy.
“I wasn’t very pleased with it,” he said. “I wasn’t locating pitches very well I don’t feel like I had command [Friday] with any pitch.”
Even though Jordan pitched a strong first inning, including a three-pitch strikeout of Miguel Cabrera, the right-hander felt his command was off. (Jordan got Cabrera out twice.) His control worsened in the third inning when he allowed all of his runs.
“A lot of the pitches I was just babying,” he said. “The slider and the change-up, I was just babying them. Just trying to guide it almost to where I wanted it. And then I missed that double play ball.”
Manager Matt Williams said coaches have encouraged Jordan to throw more fastballs that sink and induced groundballs, and use his breaking balls less. He also hoped that Jordan wouldn’t worry about his standing in the fifth starter’s competition after a bad outing.
“We’re just going to continue to encourage him to use his stuff and be the best pitcher he can be,” Williams said. “Competing for a spot, that’s good. That’s the way it should be. I don’t think he should be nervous about anything he does out there. If he’s aggressive, he’ll be fine.”
>>> Left-handed reliever Michael Gonzalez, who was signed to a minor league deal last week, made his Grapefruit League debut this season in the eighth inning. He faced five batters, two of them left-handers, and allowed two runs on two hits. The two hits surrendered were to the left-handers on flat breaking balls.
“To be expected,” he said. “I hadn’t really snapped them off. And the good thing is that I got to finish off with a really good breaking pitch to a righty. Got it in the dirty where I wanted it. The other two I left up because I wanted to put a little bit more on them. That’s what comes last.”
Overall, Gonzalez said he was pleased with his outing. The scoreboard reading noted Gonzalez’s fastball as high as 92 miles per hour, but that was perhaps a few ticks too high, according to one official.
“I felt good, man,” Gonzalez said. “Good to get back in there and back in the rhythm of things. I felt my rhythm was good. The aggressiveness was good. I’m excited about the outing. You don’t want to give up runs but overall the way the shoulder feels. The way the arm feels all together. I feel like I’m back at it.”
>>> Right-handed reliever Luis Ayala, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, allowed five runs on six hits and notched only two outs in the fourth inning. All but one of the hits was a single. Williams dismissed the notion that Ayala struggled, saying that the veteran reliever was inducing groundballs that just couldn’t be converted into outs. “He did what he was supposed to do but some groundballs got through,” Williams said.
Williams didn’t pull Ayala earlier because he said he had confidence in the right-hander to finish the inning. But Ayala’s final at-bat was an 11-pitch battle with Nick Castellanos.
>>> Drew Storen escaped a bases loaded jam in the fifth inning with a flyout. He gave up back-to-back singles to Torii Hunter and Cabrera. Former National Steve Lombardozzi pinch ran for Cabrera, and he and Hunter executed a double steal. Storen walked Alex Avila to load the bases with two outs. Williams said the right-handed reliever was throwing an unusually high number of breaking balls and change-ups, but that was a conscious effort to work on them. But it also got Storen in a jam that he eventually wiggled out of.
>>> Tyler Moore got off to a slow start this spring but Williams said he saw signs of him snapping out. Moore went 2 for 2, crushing a two-run home run off Rick Porcello in the fourth inning for his first home run of the spring. Scott Hairston, who has struggled against right-handers in his career, hit his first home run of the spring against right-hander Al Aburquerque in the sixth inning.
>>> In the sixth inning, both shortstop Zach Walters and catcher Sandy Leon flashed their strong arms. Walters made a nifty throw from deep in the hole to nab a runner and Leon threw a runner out at third base.
Doug Fister’s bullpen session a ‘step in the right direction’ [UPDATED]
UPDATE, 6:05 p.m.: Pitching coach Steve McCatty said that Doug Fister looked good in his bullpen session on Friday morning. After four straight days of throwing, he will rest on Saturday morning. If Fister feels good, he could throw two innings in a minor league camp on Sunday, McCatty said. But he was encouraged that Fister could complete his bullpen without issue.
“It’s a positive sign,” McCatty said. “We have to be cautious right now. And just make sure he’s fine. We’ll see how he is (Saturday) morning. Depending how he is, we’ll see when we get him in the game.” --James Wagner
ORIGINAL: Right-hander Doug Fister came away encouraged but not yet prepared to declare himself ready for the start of the regular season after he threw off a mound this morning for the first time since he developed inflammation in his throwing elbow.
Fister had not thrown any pitches since March 2, when he felt elbow soreness in his first spring training start. He threw 25 pitches in his bullpen session, mostly fastballs with a few curveballs and changeups mixed in. Pitching coach Steve McCatty and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz looked on.
“It was a pretty good bullpen,” Fister said. “Felt pretty good about it. Step in the right direction.”
On Thursday, Fister pitched on flat ground and felt tightness in his arm. He felt improvement this morning, but some of the feeling remained.
“Stiffness,” Fister said. “It’s cold outside. A little tight.”
Fister will wait to map out his next step. “See how we feel the next couple days,” he said. He did not know if the Nationals had any more tests for his elbow planned, but he assumed they did not.
“Threw all the pitches, felt good,” Fister said. “It’s just a matter of getting out there and fighting through whatever.”
Manager Matt Williams said earlier this week that if Fister stays on the Nationals’ plan for him to rebuild arm strength without setbacks, he will be able to take his first turn in the rotation. The Nationals will not require a fifth starter until April 6, so they have ample time. Fister, though, does not want to look that far ahead.
“I’m not going to project that,” Fister said. “It’s a matter of how I feel the next day. We’ll take it day-by-day at this point.”
The Nationals are taking a cautious approach with Fister, whom they acquired this winter in a trade with the Tigers for Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and pitching prospect Robbie Ray.
The Nationals wanted to see how Fister felt today before he even threw the mound session. Before Fister stepped in the bullpen at Space Coast Stadium, McCatty asked him how he felt. Fister assured him he felt better than Thursday.
“No lying,” McCatty told him.
“I wouldn’t lie,” Fister said. And then he walked to the mound, a small relief, for now, for everybody within the Nationals.
“We want to make sure we’re taking care of him for the long term as opposed to his first start,” Williams said. “We have to make sure we progress slowly to make sure we have him for a full season and not rush him too quickly and lose him. All indications are that all things are good, just the soreness and inflammation we need to get out of there.”
Reliever Ryan Mattheus threw another bullpen session and felt “great.” He will throw live batting practice Monday, and then get into his first game of the spring. Mattheus was shut down earlier this spring with a strain in his chest muscle.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman participated in the Nationals’ workout back in Viera, including some light throwing. Zimmerman has not played since Monday with soreness in his right shoulder. He plans to take a full infield practice and play Saturday in Jupiter, though he said he might be a designated hitter during the game.