For the first time in two weeks, Doug Fister climbed onto a mound and faced hitters on Monday morning. Fister, acquired by the Nationals in an offseason trade, has been receiving treatment for inflammation in his elbow — which he first felt after his first spring training start on March 2.
The right-handed starter threw two innings against minor leaguers, prospects and some major league hitters, such as Jayson Werth. Fister didn’t complain of any pain afterward, an encouraging enough sign that Manager Matt Williams said the right-hander’s next outing will probably be back in a major league spring training game.
Fister was slated to throw around 30 pitches on Monday, so he faced more than the normal three outs in an inning. He struck out four batters, induced a double play and surrendered three hits, including a home run to Werth.
“I felt all right,” Fister said. “Was good to get back out there.”
He said his arm “feels good.” The Nationals have been confident about Fister’s elbow because tests revealed no structural damage. With rest and treatment, they believed Fister could overcome his inflammation. Fister said the elbow discomfort is much improved.
“I’m still working some kinks out but it’s a lot better,” he said.
Manager Matt Williams, General Manager Mike Rizzo, pitching coach Steve McCatty and a throng of other front office officials watched Fister pitch. Fister will be evaluated again on Tuesday morning and that will determine when he pitches next.
Fister threw all his pitches in his two innings, relying heavily on his sinking fastball and mixed in curveballs. He surrendered a single to prospect Michael Taylor on a curveball, a pitch Fister hasn’t thrown much of recently.
“It’s not as sharp as I want it to be for being technically my first outing in a while but I was pretty pleased with what I had,” Fister said.
On the home run, Fister fired a low, inside fastball that Werth managed to stay inside on and drill over the left field fence. Fister was happy with his location of the pitch. “I don’t know how (Werth) hit that because that was a good pitch,” said catcher Wilson Ramos, who came over to the minor league, too, to catch Fister.
“J-Dub got him,” McCatty said. “He hit a single and a homer. J-Dub gets paid a lot of money, too. But 30 pitches, two innings. I thought he threw the ball well. Had nice movement. The best part is, he had no complaints. So I thought it went well.”
“He looked good,” Ramos added. “His pitches were low in the strike zone, which is most important. All the pitches were in the zone. I was pleased.”
Fister’s next outing is expected to last three innings and could be in a major league spring training game, McCatty said. The Nationals are being cautious with Fister, but believe he can still be ready for the regular season. The Nationals wouldn’t need a fifth starter until April 6, so they have ample time to get Fister innings before then.
“Every time he goes out, we’ll see,” McCatty said. “The first question is, is his arm feeling good? That’s the positive. Hopefully, he’s ready for his first start. But it’s day-to-day.”
– Adam Kilgore contributed