PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Doug Fister left Thursday's Minor League start with a right lat strain, bringing into serious question his readiness for the beginning of the season. The setback could mean that both Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, previously battling for the fifth-starter's job, will open in the rotation.
Fister, who dealt with right elbow inflammation earlier this spring, returned from about a three-week absence to pitch against the Marlins on Saturday. He was scheduled to throw 60 pitches against Minor Leaguers on Thursday morning back at the Nats' complex in Viera, Fla., but came out after the first inning. He'll be re-evaluated on Friday in Washington.
"Not on any particular pitch, nothing involving the elbow, but took him out after his first inning as a precaution," manager Matt Williams said. "He'll see the doc in Washington tomorrow. We'll evaluate from there."
Even before the game, Fister had told pitching coach Steve McCatty that he was feeling some tightness in the lat. While McCatty thought Fister was pitching fine, the lat didn't loosen up in the first inning, and Fister told McCatty he felt "a little tugging." The Nats pulled the plug after only 15 pitches.
"I was not going to let him attempt to get through," McCatty said. "If I told him he was all right to go, he probably would have went out there. You got to be smart in those situations."
Asked if the injury is serious, Williams said he didn't know and that, "It's a little early to tell right now."
Previously, Fister was on track to start on April 6 against the Braves. Jordan and Roark are both scheduled to pitch in Saturday's exhibition game against the Tigers in Washington, and a decision was to be made at that point about who would fill the No. 5 spot in the rotation. While the Nats are not setting anything in stone yet, it appears likely that both will open 2014 as Major League starters.
"They both earned the right to pitch," Williams said. "We'll have to see. We'll have to see how [Fister] feels tomorrow, what the doctor says, where we're at. But right now, we just know he couldn't make it through his start today."
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.