Fister excels in first Grapefruit League start in 20 days (Nats win 6-5)

NATIONALS QUICK WRAP

Score: Nationals 6, Marlins (ss) 5

Recap: Danny Espinosa hit two homers, including a walk-off shot to the opposite field in the bottom of the ninth. Rafael Soriano served up a solo shot in the seventh, Ross Detwiler allowed three runs in the eighth and Michael Gonzalez blew a save in the ninth but the Nats picked up the win.

Need to know: Doug Fister worked 3 2/3 strong innings in his first appearance in 20 days, and most importantly, he came out saying that he felt no abnormal discomfort in his arm. Fister might be on the way to putting his elbow inflammation behind him.

On deck: Sunday, at vs. Mets at Port St. Lucie, 1:10 p.m.

VIERA, Fla. - Pitching in a big league spring training game for the first time in 20 days, Doug Fister sure didn't look too rusty. In fact, he was so sharp that he went deeper into the game than his manager expected.

In his first Grapefruit League appearance since being shut down due to inflammation in his right elbow, Fister went 3 2/3 innings today against a split-squad Marlins lineup, allowing two hits with four strikeouts and a hit-batter.

Scheduled to go three frames or around 45 pitches, Fister completed the three innings in 40 pitches, so he was sent out for the start of the fourth. He got a groundout and then struck out Marcell Ozuna looking at a fastball, and manager Matt Williams came out to get him.

He finished having thrown 47 pitches, 32 for strikes.

Fister looked, well, like we would expect him to look, even given the long absence due to the elbow issue.

He located his sinker down in the zone, and got a 6-4-3 double play ball, as well as three more groundouts. He showed off some sharp off-speed pitches, getting Jeff Mathis swinging at a curveball to end the second inning and notching another swinging strikeout of Juan Diaz on what looked like a changeup in the third.

We've yet to speak to Fister, so there's no way of knowing at this point how he felt physically. But he sure didn't look like he was dealing with any more elbow discomfort on the mound. And the fact that he was allowed to work into the fourth is a pretty good indication that he felt strong.

Williams said that he didn't care at all about Fister's results today, he just wanted him to get his innings in and feel good health-wise.

As I said, we don't know yet how he feels, but the results sure were impressive.

He'll have one more spring training start, likely Thursday against the Mets, and then the Nats will need to decide how to slot him into their regular season rotation.

The Nationals have a 1-0 lead going to the bottom of the fourth, after Jayson Werth brought in a run in the third on what was scored an E-9 with an RBI.

Marlins right fielder Reed Johnson dropped Werth's sinking liner, allowing Denard Span to trot home from third.

Wilson Ramos (single), Adam LaRoche (slap double) and Ian Desmond (single) join Span (single) in the hit column for the Nats so far.

Update: It's now a 4-4 game after eight, as back-to-back homers by Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa in the seventh were washed out by a sub-par eighth inning by Ross Detwiler.

LaRoche's homer flew out to the opposite field, while Espinosa's bomb - his first of spring - went out just to the right of the batter's eye in center.

Bryce Harper's double in the fourth was his second extra-base hit of spring. This homer from Espinosa was his third extra-base knock.

Chris Young followed Fister with 2 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts, but Rafael Soriano allowed a run on an Ozuna bomb of a homer in the seventh, and then Detwiler served up three runs in the eighth.

Detwiler, making his second relief appearance since being told he'll start the season in the bullpen, gave up two walks and two hits (one of them a bunt single, the other a two-run double off the bat of Donovan Solano). On the Solano double, Harper tried to throw out Jake Marisnick at the plate from 310 feet away, and he airmailed three cut-off men in the process.

That allowed Solano to move up to third on the throw, and he then came in on a sacrifice fly. You can bet Williams won't be happy with that.

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