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With healthy arm and clear mind, Fister ready to start over

Jun 18, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

AP

Competitor that he is, Doug Fister never wants to admit he’s not physically fit to pitch. But it was the realization and then acceptance of that fact five weeks ago that put Fister into the position he is today: Ready to rejoin the Nationals rotation, ready to be the contributor he expected to be all along.

“At the time, it was not allowing me to get my job done, and that’s something we can’t toy around with,” the right-hander said. “We’ve gotta win games here, period. If that means me taking a step out, then that’s what I had to do. That was an easy decision for us.”

Forearm tightness prompted Fister to shut it down following a dreadful start May 14 in San Diego. He has resided on the disabled list ever since, but tonight he’ll be activated and take the mound for the finale of the Nationals’ 4-game, 2-city series with the Rays. And he’s convinced he’ll be better for it.

“Over the time being on the DL, I think it has improved and gotten a lot better,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how it improves. There were a lot of mechanical issues that I’ve had, and it kind of got away from me. So these [five] weeks or however long it’s been, it’s almost like a spring training for me, trying to get back on track. As everything goes along, it’s gonna progress even better. I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes.”

Though he didn’t fully reveal his forearm discomfort until after that 7-run-in-2-inning night at Petco Park last month, Fister admittedly didn’t feel 100 percent for awhile. And his overall performance reflects that.

In seven starts to open the season, he posted a 4.31 ERA with a career-worst 1.412 WHIP and a walk rate (2.3 per nine innings) almost twice his mark from 2014.

The forearm injury was a contributing factor, but Fister also believes poor mechanics played a role in his struggles. After watching video of himself from earlier in his career, he realized he wasn’t staying back enough before releasing the ball, instead out on his front foot too soon in the delivery process.

“I sat down and really looked at some video of previous years and see a comparison of where I’ve been, where I used to be, and really get that feeling back both with visualization and in the bullpen,” he said.

Fister felt like he had the problem solved Friday night during his rehab start for Class AA Harrisburg, when he tossed six scoreless innings, striking out four without walking a batter. That was the final step in a long rehab process that included plenty of work even when he didn’t have a baseball in his right hand.

“In the minor leagues, we did a lot of mental skills work,” he said. “That’s something … we say this game is 80 percent mental, and how much work we do mentally? It’s something I’m really trying to focus on. Visualization is a big part, a big thing for us, because we can only throw so many pitches in a week and a time span between starts, so try to get that done. So getting back to my roots is something that’s definitely helped. And I look forward to seing how it translates into a game.”

  1. natsguy - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    To respond back to Adcwonk and veejh. Yes there is some time to straighten out this conglomeration, but that was the cry on this team and this site in 2013. Time to start playing some ball and seperate the wheat from the chaff. Fister pitching like last year would be a major start. I don’t have a lot of hope about RZ and Werth. Werth will be too late and RZ has so many things going on, some of which he is not admitting. Some help has to be found for the bullpen. That bunch won’t carry this team anywhere, much less to the playoffs and beyond. Gio and SS are problems that have to be fixed.

    A real positive is Joe Ross. That guy can pitch and has real moxie on the mound.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      Everybody wants this team to start playing better, and sooner rather than later.

      But the comparisons to 2013, when ATL was running away with the division and the Nats were below 500 and 7 games back on June 18, are still pretty off base.

      • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:24 AM

        HH makes a good point.

        To make it even clearer: in 2013 we won 86 games. I’m thinking 86 — if not, certainly 88, will win the division.

        Meaning: if we can just be _two_ games better than 2013 . . . . etc.

      • Section 222 - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:20 PM

        Fair points on the comparison to 2013, but in 2013, the Nats were out of the race by early August. Their great play in late August and September was during “garbage time” to use an NBA analogy. When it counted, they were bad, all the “we got this” from this board notwithstanding. And yes, there isn’t a top team running away from the division this year, but we also can’t count on the Braves and Mets to be as mediocre all year long as they’ve been so far.

        I also think we should be too quick to assume that Joe Ross is the real deal and will continue to be a lights out starter. Taylor Jordan was pretty good in his first two starts in 2013, and where is he now? He’s talented and promising, but we need our starting 5 +1 to be what they were advertised, not rely on a rookie to pick up the slack.

    • veejh - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:57 AM

      Everyone should have expected some regression in Fister. He’ll bounce back, but I doubt he comes close to the #’s he put up last season, even if you exclude his season before the injury.

      I think Werth can get going in 2 months time.

      The foot issue with Zim is troubling. I had the same issue and it took 6 months plus to be completely healed. I didn’t have a training staff to expedite the process, but from what I’ve read, rest is the only thing that helps. I got some inserts with serious arch support and soon thereafter, I could tell it was getting better. We need Zim’s bat.

  2. ArVAFan - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    Well, the proof is in the pitching. Ill be there tonight to check it out in person.

    Usually, to start a game, there’s a video segment “Last night the Nationals . . . ” showing the highlights (even from losses there is usually something to show–defense, a home run, something!) . I’m wondering if they’ll skip that tonight, because “last night, the Nationals did nothing worth showing up here” just doesn’t have that ring to it.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      Pitching was good last night. Should have been 2 runs in instead of 3 on JZim’s ledger. The other 2 unearned at the hands of Treinen were where you just shake your head in disgust on how that could happen.

      • alexva6 - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:24 AM

        wet field, wet ball, poor fielding pitcher. it doesn’t take any more imagination than that

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:33 AM

        Little League HR by the Bad Nat Bears

      • natsfan1a - Jun 18, 2015 at 3:47 PM

        True on Z’nn. My Chicago-now-Denver buddy was grousing when there were 2 runs, and I replied that was not a bad start imo, and that pitchers aren’t going to be perfect all the time. He needed some run support, which he did not get.

    • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:25 AM

      Hey there — we’ll be there, too. In Sec 308!

    • NatsLady - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:29 AM

      Will be there also, Sec 304. If there is a rain delay I’ll have to leave, can’t stay too late.

    • natsfan1a - Jun 18, 2015 at 3:44 PM

      As I remarked to my Chicago-now-Denver baseball buddy at the time, the grounds crew did a great of getting the tarp on quickly and without incident. She’s like, “Yeah, that’s the highlight of the game.” Heh.

      • natsfan1a - Jun 18, 2015 at 3:45 PM

        Well, that was supposed to go with this comment from ArVaFan:

        “Usually, to start a game, there’s a video segment “Last night the Nationals . . . ” showing the highlights (even from losses there is usually something to show–defense, a home run, something!) . I’m wondering if they’ll skip that tonight, because “last night, the Nationals did nothing worth showing up here” just doesn’t have that ring to it.”

      • natsfan1a - Jun 18, 2015 at 3:45 PM

        And on a game note, we won’t be there until Sunday, but will be at the P-Nats tomorrow night.

  3. Doc - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    I like how he uses the pronoun, ‘we’.

    Go get ’em Doug!!!

  4. exposremains - Jun 18, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    From the previous post.

    Laddieblabla…what about the nyger morgan trade?

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      LOL. Must have a psychological block to have forgotten that guy. I’ll go back and add it to the list. Can’t remember what they gave up to get him, but it was too much. The mental part of the game still applies, even to NI commenters.

      Can you think of any others I missed?

      • exposremains - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:43 AM

        It was Rizzo’s first trade I think..I don’t think you miss other ones…

      • dryw4nats - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:02 PM

        When you’re scoring the Nyjer trade, keep in mind that, while things went pretty far south, in the short term, the trade actually did provide a spark that we needed. Tony Plush did make some legit contributions his first year or so with the Nats, and to me the value of that is not totally negated by all of the antics and negative things that came along later.

    • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:32 AM

      That’s Nyjer with a j.

      We got Nyjer and Sean Burnett by giving up Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge.

      • exposremains - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:42 AM

        Thats right with a J …I thought the Y was the weird part…Hanrahan became good. Burnett serviceable..Milledge and Morgan cancel themselves out…

      • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:01 PM

        Milledge and Morgan cancel themselves out…

        A classic line! 😉

    • laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:45 AM

      Updated and reformatted. Any others?

      Rizzo’s rap sheet – a felonious history of theft, chicanery, larceny and fraud:

      Guilty, guilty, guilty – should get life in solitary confinement, without hope of parole:

      2009 – Seattle gets Ryan Langerhans…………………………………….Nats get Michael Morse
      2010 – Texas gets Christian Guzman + $82 mn……………………….Nats get Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko
      2010 – Minnesota gets Matt Capps…………………………………………Nats get Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa
      2012 – Minnesota gets Alex Meyer…………………………………………Nats get Denard Span
      2013 – Detroit gets Lombo, Krol, Robbie Ray…………………………..Nats get Dough Fister
      2014 – Tampa Bay gets Nate Karns………………………………………..Nats get Lobaton, Felipe Rivero, Drew Vettleson

      “Do not buy a used car from this man” category:

      2012 – Oakland gets David Freitas (who?)………………………………Nats get Kurt Suzuki
      2013 – Oakland gets Michael Morse……………………………………….Nats get AJ Cole, Blake Treinen, PTBNL (no clue)
      2014 – Cleveland gets Zach Walters……………………………………….Nats get Asdrubal Cabrera

      Jury still out, but an eventual guilty verdict seems very likely:

      2014 – Tampa Bay gets Steven Souza…………………………………….Nats get Joe Ross and Trea Turner
      2015 – Oakland gets Tyler Clippard…………………………………………Nats get Yunel Escobar
      2015 – Yanks get Tony Renda………………………………………………..Nats get David Carpenter

      Hung jury, ordered back into deliberations:

      2011 – Oakland gets Peacock, Cole, Milone, Norris…………………..Nats get Gio Gonzalez
      2013 – Tampa Bay gets David DeJesus…………………………………..Nats get Mathew Spann

      Win some, lose some – prosecutorial discretion – No charges were ever filed:

      2009 – Pirates get Joel Hanrahan, Lastings Milledge………………….Nats get Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett
      2010 – Arizona gets Josh Willingham……………………………………….Nats get Corey Brown and Henry Rodriguez
      2011 – Arizona gets Jason Marquis, Jerry Hairston…………………….Nats get Zach Walters and Erik Komatsu
      2013 – Oakland gets Kurt Suzuki……………………………………………..Nats get Dakota Bacus
      2013 – Cubs get Ivan Pineyro………………………………………………….Nats get Scott Hairston
      2015 – Mets get Jerry Blevins………………………………………………….Nats get Matt den Dekker

      The con man finally gets conned:

      2013 – Oakland gets Billy Burns……………………………………………..Nats get Jerry Blevins

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:51 AM

        Jerry Hairston for Komatsu I believe was with the Brewers

      • nats128 - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:55 AM

        Great list and great work! That should be the working model.

      • nats128 - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:57 AM

        2013 – Oakland gets Michael Morse……………………………………….Nats get AJ Cole, Blake Treinen, PTBNL (no clue

        That was a 3 team trade with Seattle.

      • laddieblahblah - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:01 PM

        “Jerry Hairston for Komatsu I believe was with the Brewers…”

        Yep. Will fix it tomorrow and repost. Gotta run.

        “That was a 3 team trade with Seattle.”

        Any clue if they ever got a PTBNL from Oakland, or did they just settle up for cash? I seem to vaguely recall they decided to accept cash from Billy as they could not agree on a player, but, of course, I could be wrong.

      • nats128 - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:17 PM

        January 16, 2013: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Washington Nationals to the Seattle Mariners. The Oakland Athletics sent a player to be named later, A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen to the Washington Nationals. The Seattle Mariners sent John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics. The Oakland Athletics sent Ian Krol (March 20, 2013) to the Washington Nationals to complete the trade.

        Ian Krol was the PTBNL.

      • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Jun 18, 2015 at 5:45 PM

        Worth putting on the spreadsheet? or is that defunk-ed?

    • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:46 PM

      JJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJ

      N-Y- EFFING J- E-R

      I thought we were done with that.

      Sorry, I still get ticked by that, apparently.

  5. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    Neither offense was too good last night. They got 2 solo HRs and a lot of luck. The Nats had no luck and some awful at-bats. This team is better than what we see in so many of these games.

    • Toot D. Blan - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:24 AM

      The Rays offense was fine last night. They had 12 hits to go with the three errors the Nats gifted them with. As to your statement “This team is better than what we see in so many of these games” there’s an acronym for that. WYSIWYG. What you see is what you get.

      • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:50 PM

        “You are what your record says you are.”

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    This is what concerns me about Clint Robinson. Baseball adjusts and takes notice quickly. We know Clint can hit an inside mistake pitch, but he hasn’t been hitting the outside pitch well and generally pulls it weakly like we saw yesterday.

    In the 4th inning he had a pitch to hit the other way and got out in front of it and somehow pulled it to the 1st baseman for a weak groundout.

    Clint did take an outside pitch that was supposed to be low and flicked it to deep LF for a flyout so he did make contact but didn’t hit it on the screws. I have a feeling that he will see a steady dose of outside and low pitches and he’s going to have to adjust to it.

    9th inning groundout into the shift.

    • nats128 - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:59 AM

      Perfect illustration! Bellisario missed locations on pitch #2 and Robinson looked at it. Your correct that he will have to adjust as teams will only come inside as a mistake.

  7. tcostant - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    He been hurt two years in a row, the positive is that he might be price in the range ($75M-80M) that we could actual resign him now. They are so many stud pitchers on the market this year (Price, Cueto, JZiimm and Greinke), I think it may happen. Only so many teams can pay $100M

    • jd - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:44 AM

      tcostant,

      I am not sure it makes sense to sign a 32 year old starter to that kind of long term deal.

      • Hiram Hover - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:47 AM

        +1.

      • Doc - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:49 AM

        Correctomundo, it doesn’t. Particularly one who has a FB in the mid-80s, and who has be injured 2X in the last 2 years.

    • tcostant - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:53 PM

      I sign him to 5 years for $80M in a second. He show you how good he could be in 2014. And it’s not like his fastball will get any slower. The guy knows how to pitch. No way a gonear $100M, but $16M/year for 5 years is more than doable.

      • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:53 PM

        Yes, but they’re not signing him for 2014. They’re signing him for 2016 and beyond. And knowing how to pitch isn’t the same thing as being good at it. At some point, it won’t be enough. I think that point is less than five years off, probably a lot less.

  8. jd - Jun 18, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Ghost,

    What concerns me about Robinson is that he’s batting in the middle of the lineup everyday and this tells you that the lineup is hurting. If Robinson made it as a bench lefty bat that might be an accomplishment for him but when you are forced to play several bench players regularly every day you will eventually be exposed.

    I agree with you that JZim pitched well enough to win last night, still he hasn’t been as good as last year and that’s amplified with the troika of Stras, Fister and Gio contributing so little. With Fister and Stras on the way back let’s hope we hit the reset button and start playing the way we should, god knows the Mets have allowed us to stick around longer than should have been expected.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      jd, spot on. Once you hit a monstrous HR, double and single the other team takes notice. CRob stepped out of the shadows and got schooled on every pitch yesterday but the good news is that pitchers make mistakes and he will have to capitalize on mistake pitches AND learn how to hit the darn outside and low pitch.

      To watch a player pull an outside pitch is a work of art if that was their intentions but when it’s a poor swing, not good. Typically you hit it where they threw it. CRob is getting the exaggerated shift as a dead pull hitter and he has to sit back on these balls and hit those outside pitches oppo with authority.

      Until he can show that ability and adjustment, I’m concerned. Book established. Low and away.

      • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:54 PM

        Reminds me of an old story I heard from an old-timer (perhaps Ralph Kiner?)

        It was a pitcher asking his veteran catcher (or manager?) how to pitch to the lineup he was going to face.

        “How do I pitch to so-and-so?” “Keep it low and away, or high and tight”
        “How do I pitch to the second guy?” “Keep it low and away, or high and tight”
        “How do I pitch to the third guy” “Keep it low and away, or high and tight”

        Finally he asked:

        “How do I pitch to Babe Ruth”

        “Keep it low and away, or high and tight”

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:23 PM

        Seems to work as the general rule of thumb and if you’ve noticed the book on Harp is up and in and if you hit him, oh well. They will also pitch him low middle and low away but if the pitcher misses the spots it’s going to be hit deep.

  9. jfmii - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:13 PM

    Do we know who is leaving the 25-person roster to make way for Fister?

    • nats128 - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:19 PM

      I read Ghost thought Taylor Hill.

  10. jfmii - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:14 PM

    Taylor Hill?

    • jd - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:18 PM

      Hill or Ross I’m guessing.

  11. jd - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    We actually have a bunch of pitchers with a pretty good chance to graduate in the next 2 years and be very good. You have Giolito and Lopez at high A, you have Voth and Ross at AA, Eric Fedde soon to come off TJ and even A.J. Cole is only 23 and can still turn into a decent mid rotation guy.

    We have Scherzer, Stras, Gio and Roark on the big club next year so I wouldn’t rush to make a big signing at this time. Where I don’t see much developing is at 1st and 3rd and at the corners in the outfield.. Since Rendon and Harper are still very young you have 2 of these positions covered for a while but if Ryan Zimmerman can’t regain his form we may still be in trouble.

  12. Theophilus T.S. - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:20 PM

    Fister has 30+ day DL stints in two seasons. At his age, I think that maxes out his next deal at three years, including acceptance of a fair amount of risk. It doesn’t do much for his price, either. Though he might arguably fall w/in the Nats’ budget I don’t see how — especially given the risk — three years fits in the Nats’ plans. Although there likely will be at least a couple of defections, will the Nats need him as a fifth starter in 2018 (especially if Gonzalez is still around, which I am hoping against). I think the most the Nats could offer him is two years, even if he climbs back to close to last year’s level.

  13. 9rhrssy01 - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:33 PM

    Blevins for Billy Burns.Not too good. Why did we let Blevins go?He pitched well in Sept last year if I recall correctly.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:54 PM

      Given the Werth, Span situations Rizzo needed a major-league OF with options

      • Theophilus T.S. - Jun 18, 2015 at 12:56 PM

        And he grossly over-estimated the abilities of his LH relief options. Which is the ultimate failure in the Blevins deal.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:36 PM

        +1 to Theo

    • Joe Seamhead - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:07 PM

      I’m in a minority with my view, but I think Jerry pi$$ed Rizzo off. And as far as I am concerned he virtually gave him to the Mets. At the time of the Burns for Blevins deal it was said that Blevins was not a LOOGY, but instead a guy that could give you multiple innings. The logic was that Blevins was the missing link needed to take the Nats to the World Series and that Burns was a low level prospect whose way was blocked with the Nats. Very few on this board objected to that trade at the time. Except from a couple of us who had followed both players.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:41 PM

        I’m with you Joe that he pi$$ed Rizzo off. His fate was sealed when he argued his salary coupled with his record. Rizzo brought him in as a lefty who could throw complete innings vs righties and lefties.

        I didn’t like Blevins stats in Oakland. I also saw Burns as a 4th outfielder with potential in the same way I see Andrew Stevenson. Beane saw potential star quality in Burns and so far he’s gotten quite the return on investment.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:50 PM

        Steve, I mostly agree with what you said, except I’m not sure anybody thought that they’d get what they’re getting out of Billy right now. .I think a steady 4th outfielder with extraordinary pinch running skills was more what they thought.If Coco Crisp hadn’t got hurt again Burns might still be in Nashville. Another compelling thing about the whole Burns story is what an upstanding, straight up guy he is. They all loved him in Harrisburg. He is also said to be very deeply religious young man.

    • Hiram Hover - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:34 PM

      I think Theo has it right about when Blevins was traded away–Nats needed OF help with Span and Werth opening the season on the DL.

      While I dont think the outcome of Blevin’s salary hearing mattered a whit to Rizzo (sorry, Joe) I do think that the prospect of saving $2M or so was enticing with payroll pushing $140M for 2015.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:37 PM

        HH, you may be right, but it wasn’t the $2M, it was that Jerry took him to arbitration at all, as Rizzo had offered him a raise in spite of his disappointing results.

      • Joe Seamhead - Jun 18, 2015 at 1:41 PM

        And in spite of other’s opinions to the contrary, I don’t think much of denDekker’s chances to ever be more than a Corey Brown level of player for this team.

      • adcwonk - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:00 PM

        The story I read somewhere — so take it with a grain (or a pound) of salt, back up what Seamhead said, with one more detail.

        ” it was that Jerry took him to arbitration at all, ” — I think the missing detail was that what the Nats offered and what Blevins wanted were pretty close. (something like $1.4m vs $1.6m, perhaps?) Rizzo was not happy that a player was going to take the club to arbitration over such a small amount.

        Again. please take with a lot of salt. (and factor in faulty memory on my part, too 😉 )

      • rlndtln - Jun 18, 2015 at 2:38 PM

        What outfield help.He went to the minors and we need help now and he does not play.The Blevins trade was a big mistake.He was better than any lefty we have.

      • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Jun 18, 2015 at 3:02 PM

        And if Rizzo had a crystal ball to see all the possible futures, he’d be even better than he is. It seemed like the thing to do, at the time.

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