Matt Williams decided he would spend Thursday’s workout in the bullpen, “to make sure that I’m seeing what I want to see and that I’m evaluating the way that I should evaluate,” he said. While there, he saw the player who, more than any other, has stood out to him: newly acquired right-hander Doug Fister.
During bullpen sessions, Fister has pitched like a metronome, one sinker after the next, boring past an imaginary hitters’ knees. During fielding practice, he has mixed smooth hands, sure throws and intensity. “I enjoy the fielding,” Fister said. “That’s not a grind for me.”
“The angle that he creates and everything’s down in the strike zone,” Williams said. “The ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes in any given moment, even now, even early, is pretty impressive.”
“He’s one of those guys, he doesn’t light up the radar gun, by any stretch of the imagination, as compared to a lot of guys in baseball these days,” Williams added. “But he’s that guy that you walk up there and go, ‘Man, I’m 0-for-4. How did that happen?’ And you just keep beating balls into the ground. He’s got the ability to elevate the fastball late and strike you out if he wants to. But I think he just pounds the zone so well that he gets early outs and he keeps the game moving. His tempo is good. All of those things. He’s impressive to me. He’s impressive the way he goes about his business. He’s been probably the most impressive as far as the fundamentals have gone, too. I mean, it’s full speed with everything he does. So that’s been a good sight to see, too.”
Williams also mentioned closer Rafael Soriano as a player who impressed. Soriano threw his second bullpen session of the spring.
“He was intense in his bullpen and worked on all of his pitches,” Williams said. “Again, we monitor him because his innings total isn’t going to be great in spring training, but he was working on it and he’ll be prepared. So it was a good day.”
** Bryce Harper cut his batting practice session short after he had trouble getting loose. The shortened session had nothing to do with Harper’s surgically repaired knee, Williams said, but rather his routine, which was interrupted by the first-day meeting.
“Part of my job coming in here is to understand the guys, so Harp cut his BP short today in an effort to get into his routine,” Williams said. “I didn’t allow him time this morning with our long meeting for him to go through his whole routine. So, part of that is in the morning time after our meeting is about 20-to-25 minutes that he likes to go to the cage. Today he didn’t get that. So he got out there and he thought ‘You know what? I’m not going to start bad habits at this point. I’m going to make sure that I’m prepared every day.’ But there’s nothing wrong with him. He just didn’t get a chance to do that today. We’ll start it again tomorrow.”
** The Nationals continue to rave about their collection of young arms and their pitching depth. Assistant general manager Bob Boone watched a series of bullpen sessions this afternoon. “I know one thing,” Boone said afterward, chuckling. “The Syracuse staff is going to be looking pretty good.”
** Ross Ohlendorf, who has an outside shot at the No. 5 rotation spot, threw his first bullpen session of the spring. He had been held out. “My side was bothering me a little bit, but it’s fine,” Ohlendorf said. He pitched for eight minutes rather than 12, which is how long bullpen sessions lasted for pitchers throwing their third session.
** In the first full-squad drill of the spring, Ryan Zimmerman made a defensive play that will be hard to top. Coach Randy Knorr rolled a ball from home plate, simulating a bunt, as Zimmerman charged. As Zimmerman reached the ball, it skipped off the lip where the dirt meets the grass. The odd hop forced Zimmerman to jump as he snared the ball.
While in the air, Zimmerman grabbed the ball and spun to his right, opposite of how you would want to turn to throw a ball. He turned 180 degrees and got off a throw that traveled up the base line and reached the shortstop covering third base. All the players and coaches watching cheered.
“Da-da-da, da-da-da!” shouted hitting coach Rick Schu.