READING, Pa. — After his second and final scheduled minor league rehab start on Friday night, Washington right-hander Doug Fister said he is ready to return to the majors and rejoin the Nationals. The starter, who is returning from a lat muscle strain, is slated to make his season and Nationals debut on Wednesday against the visiting the Los Angeles Dodgers. After he threw 76 pitches over 3 2/3 innings for Class AA Harrisburg in Reading, his highest pitch count yet, Fister believes he is ready to make the next step.
“I do feel like I’m ready,” he said. “Physically, I’m to the point where I can go out there and throw [up] to 100 pitches and have the stamina to continue. It’s a matter of now I need to fine-tune enough to go out there and command the baseball. That’s gonna come with time. I feel like I’m ready to go out and attack it.”
Fister, the Nationals’ prized offseason acquisition who hurt his lat in the final week of spring training, threw better than his final line shows. He threw 76 pitches, only 46 for strikes. He allowed two hits, two runs, walked three and struck out five. His fastball sat around 88 to 90 mph, a normal range, and his offspeed pitches were good. He cruised through much of the first three innings with a bowling ball sinker that he spotted with ease on both sides of the plate. But he rushed his delivery in the fourth inning, which caused his command to waver and his pitch count to shoot up.
Fister was scheduled to throw five innings or 80 pitches. After he walked two batters in the fourth, allowed a run-scoring double and groundout, Harrisburg Manager Brian Daubach pulled Fister with two outs because he didn’t want the right-hander to go over the prescribed pitch limit.
“[Friday] actually felt better than the past,” Fister said. “That was a positive for me coming in. Things warmed up quickly in the bullpen. I was able to control all my pitches and to keep the ball in the zone like I wanted it to be. Fortunately for me, that worked out. Got a little quick in the fourth inning and had to work through some things. But I felt overall that I got some positive headway.”
Friday was meant to be Fister’s longest rehab start before his expected return to the majors. Even though he didn’t tossed five innings, Fister was happy with how he felt afterward.
“I felt like I was ready to go back out for another couple innings and to get up to the typical 100 pitch count,” he said. “I knew what my limits were today and we went where we needed to go today and that’s a positive.”
Fister even got a chance to swing the bat, which he hasn’t had much of a chance to do recently. The left-handed hitter smacked a single in his first at-bat but struggled to get down a bunt his second time up, which he admitted he needs to improve. But after his start, he was giddy to return to Philadelphia, only an hour or so away from Reading, to rejoin the Nationals.
“I’m loving life right now,” he said. “The fact that I get to go back and meet up with the guys and be ready to be a part of that team again. That’s definitely got me amped up.”