Fister takes step forward with strong start

Fister takes step forward with strong start

VIERA, Fla. -- Pitchers around baseball have been getting bad health news all spring, with Tommy John surgery a common endpoint. But Nationals right-hander Doug Fister, sidelined the past few weeks with elbow inflammation, took a big step forward on Saturday toward distancing himself from that crowd.

To be sure, Fister still has a ways to go. His start against the Marlins at Space Coast Stadium nonetheless represented a significant milestone, coming 20 days after his only other appearance this spring. After throwing a stellar 3 2/3 scoreless innings, Fister couldn't guarantee that his issues are completely behind him, but he was encouraged.

"It's something I'm trying to take step by step," Fister said. "You can always have problems or you can always just fly right through. So it's a matter of taking care of business and go about things the right way and hopefully things stay right where they're supposed to be."

Fister threw 47 pitches on Saturday, and Nationals manager Matt Williams plans to get him to around 60 in his final spring start. When the club heads north, Williams said Fister might have to stay back and make one Minor League start, but if all goes well, he could be on track to take the ball on April 6 against the Braves, the first time the Nats need a fifth starter. In the meantime, Washington potentially could begin the season with an extra reliever.

"I would say that he's right on schedule," Williams said.

Fister said he felt good despite "knocking a little bit of rust off," as he held the Marlins to two hits, with one hit batter and four strikeouts. His pitches appeared sharp, including his trademark sinker, which induced a double-play grounder in the second inning.

"Command is coming back," Fister said. "Again, a little rusty. But still working on those kinds of things. I'm pleased with where I'm at, but there's still a long way to go before the season, so I've got a lot of work and a little bit of time."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.