Fister comes through throwing session OK, still in line for opening day rotation

VIERA, Fla. - After sitting out the last week and a half with inflammation in his right elbow, Nationals right-hander Doug Fister played catch today off flat ground, and came through the session OK, according to manager Matt Williams.

This was the first time Fister had thrown since feeling discomfort in his elbow after his spring debut on March 2.

An MRI revealed that Fister was dealing with inflammation in the elbow, and the Nats have been treating the issue with anti-inflammatories, ice and rest.

"Threw fine, feels good," Williams said of Fister after today's 3-2 win over the Yankees. "We'll progress him to the next step and eventually get him back on the mound and back in the game. But he felt good today."

The Nats plan to give Fister tomorrow off, have him throw again from flat ground on Thursday and then ramp him back up with bullpen sessions. If Fister doesn't experience any setbacks through that process, the Nats will then worry about when to slot the right-hander back into their slate of Grapefruit League games.

"Timeframe, not sure," Williams said. "Depends how he reacts after the next (throwing session). I think we'll give him tomorrow and then throw him on the next day. See how he is there, get him in the bullpen."

This stretch that Fister has missed while letting the inflammation clear out of his elbow isn't a crucial stretch, but it is a period when starters begin to build up their arm strength from just the standard bullpen sessions where they throw from 8-12 minutes to where they can throw around 60 pitches and work through four or five innings.

If Fister isn't able to get back on a mound for another handful of days, he'll have missed out on the typical building-up process for starting pitchers in spring, but Williams still feels like Fister would be able to make his first regular season turn in the Nats' rotation if he moves forward without any further health issues.

"Yeah, I think that he'll be fine," Williams said. "He may not be able to get built up as much as the other guys, but nonetheless, he'll be fine. He'll be fine to start if we need him to start, if all goes to plan."

Given the typical spring building process, pitchers usually throw around 30 pitches their first time out, then increase by 15 or so pitches in each subsequent outing. One would think the Nats would want Fister to at least have thrown somewhere around 60 pitches in a spring game before considering him ready for a possible regular season start, where he might be able to stretch to the 75-pitch range.

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