Doug Fister has been a Washington National for less than a day and, on Tuesday afternoon, he spoke with reporters via conference call. The 29-year-old and Merced, Calif., native touched on a number of subjects, from his groundball-heavy pitching style to his thoughts on being shipped to Washington by Detroit to having Adam LaRoche’s number in his cell phone. Fister, a 6-foot-8 right-hander who has a career 3.53 ERA, has averaged 3.48 ERA and 189 innings over the past four seasons. This was the second trade of his career; he was traded from Seattle to Detroit on in July 2011.
What was your reaction to the trade?
“There were some rumors going around that we were both kind of being out there and we were both just gonna see how things played out. Finally last night, the phone call was made and things were working out the way that things had worked out. 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. I’m looking forward to getting out there, getting going in spring training and being ready. I’m excited.”
What do you think about joining another standout starting rotation?
“Coming from Detroit, obviously we had a great staff. It was such an honor to be a part of the staff that we had there with Scherzer and Verlander and everybody else, but coming in to 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. It’s one of those things that I’m definitely looking forward to being a part of and being able to be surrounded by such terrific pitchers.”
Are you sad to leave Detroit, where you’ve spent over two and a half seasons?
“It’s definitely a surprise when you get the phone call that lets you know you’re being traded. But it’s always, you’re a world of mixed emotions. There’s friendships and brotherhood and everything that I’ll be leaving, but I’m thoroughly excited to be heading to the Nationals. It’s one of those things that I’ve come to realize that I want to know a lot of guys in the league and have some experiences to play in the NL, play in the AL and be able to have those experiences and be able to have the relationships that we have. I’m looking forward to being able to get to know those guys.”
What do you think about joining another team with big playoff hopes?
“There’s a lot of excitement for me. I was able to talk to [General Manager 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 there’s a lot of excitement for me, knowing the teammates that I’m going to be playing with this year, knowing the coaches and everyone that’s involved in not only that, but the ballpark, the fans, everybody that’s involved. It’s a big league ball club 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.”
Have you heard from any new teammates?
“I’ve had a couple welcoming text messages and phone calls from the guys. Ian Desmond was one of the ones this morning. I’ve got [Adam] LaRoche’s phone number to get a hold of him, too. These guys are definitely welcoming me with open arms. It’s definitely a family atmosphere already. I’m definitely looking forward to meeting these guys in person. I don’t really know too many of them on a very in-depth level. I’m looking forward to that opportunity. There’s some great individuals over there who make up a great team. I’m definitely looking forward to that opportunity.”
What do you think about changing leagues?
“When I’m up on the mound, I’m going to do the same thing and try to get hitters out. I know that obviously things are a little different having to face pitchers and having to hit ourselves. I’m excited to be able to grab a bat again and work on my swing. I don’t think that that’s going to change anything of my pitching style. I’m still going out there trying to pitch to our defense. 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. 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 is on the rise and right where it needs to be. It has a great defense, a great offense. I’d be foolish not to use them. I’m looking forward to having that defense.”
Your groundball rate has increased each season. What that a goal?
“It’s definitely a bullet point in my pitching perspective. I’m going out there trying to induce groundballs, induce bad contact as early in the count as possible. My job is to get through seven innings and keep zeroes on the board for our offense to get out there and swing it. If I can get that done, that’s my main focus. If I can get past that, that’s icing on the cake and I’m excited about it. But it’s one of those things, I want to get groundballs. I want to use our defense, utilize the talent that we have out there. That’s always been one of my main goals. For me, I’d be foolish not to attack that way. My main pitching sequence is a sinker. I try to attack with that.”
What do you think about getting to hit in NL?
“I joke when I say it but I hit through college and it wasn’t pretty at any time but I’m looking forward to the opportunity. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to consistently go out there and be able to swing it, but talking to a couple of my old teammates, guys that we worked in the offseason to get trained with and old coaches and just trying to get as many pointers as possible, trying to get back in the swing of things. So it’s one of those things that I don’t take for granted or I don’t take lightly. It’s part of the job now. It’s definitely been part of the job when we’re in interleague. So it’s something I want to be proficient at. I want to make sure I get my bunts down. I want to make sure I can move a runner when I need to and to put it in play. I’m taking it very seriously.”
You seem calm about the trade. Is that a personality trait?
“It definitely helps being traded once before in my career. I’m not taking it lightly by any means. I’m excited for it but I’m trying to take it with a level head and to really just kind of focus on getting ready this year, in Viera for spring and be able to get ready for Washington. Just like when I pitch, I try to stay on an even keel and to really just keep things as even as possible. So not trying to get too high, too low, too excited, too anything. So I’m just trying to take it in stride, one step at a time.”
After Prince Fielder was traded to Texas, did you think big changes were afoot in Detroit?
“It definitely took me by surprise that Prince got traded. He was a great attribute for the Tigers and was a great teammate. I think that the trade is going to benefit both sides. Detroit adding [Ian] Kinsler in the infield and Prince going to be able to hit in Texas is good for both sides. … I know that [Detroit General Manager Dave] Dombrowski is trying to make a couple, few changes.”
You’ve allowed only 16 stolen bases in five seasons. How important is that part of your game?
“That is definitely a focal point, especially in bullpen sessions and spring training. If I can work on things, work on timing, work on the mixing up of my delivery to where I can make it a second-nature type feeling that I don’t have to think about during the season, that’s my goal. I want to be able to control the running game and help the catcher out as much as possible. Obviously, there’s still fast guys that want to take a chance and obviously there were stolen bases last year. But I want to limit it as much as possible. I want to give our team the best chance to win as possible and that’s one little thing that can turn into a big thing.”
Some of your statistics rank highly, even in the top 10, over the past three seasons but with little fanfare. Why do you think that is the case?
“I’m not real positive on that. It’s a matter of I like to get out there, I like to pitch and leave all the assumptions and any sort of expectations to everybody else. I like to leave those kind of things alone and let somebody else take those by the reins.”