Some day-after thoughts on what might lie ahead for Fister

Well would you look at that. No Florida dateline. I guess that’s how you really know the regular season is almost here.

I’m back in the DMV after a flight out of Orlando late last night. I might not have missed the weather up here, but I sure did miss my own bed and my friends and family, so it’s good to be back, even for a brief period.

Today is a day off for the Nationals ahead of tomorrow’s exhibition game at Nats Park against the Tigers. Weather permitting, we’ll get that one in, and then I’ll head up to New York with the team in preparation for Monday’s regular season opener.

There’s a chance we find out more on Doug Fister’s health today after the right-hander’s strained right lat is examined by team doctors, but I’d say it’s more likely that we have to wait until Saturday for an update.

For those who missed it yesterday, Fister was scheduled to throw 60-65 pitches in a minor league game, but made it through just one inning and 15 pitches before being pulled with the strained lat.

I wrote yesterday that Fister’s status for the start of the regular season is now uncertain, and while that’s certainly true, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the chances of Fister beginning the season in the Nats’ rotation are incredibly slim to none.

Let’s say that after their examination of Fister, doctors find the best news possible - that the right-hander’s lat is not severely strained and that he can, in fact, get back on a mound in four more days and resume his throwing program.

Even if that’s what the doctors determine (and that in itself seems pretty unlikely), then Fister would need to pick up where he left off in his program.

His last start prior to yesterday’s setback - Saturday against the Marlins - saw Fister throw 47 pitches. After throwing just 15 yesterday, the Nats would likely have Fister go back to that 45-50 pitch level, or lower, before bumping him up to 60 pitches.

This is still spring training, after all. While most healthy starters have worked up to around 85-90 pitches at this point, Fister is nowhere near that level, and especially after yesterday’s setback, the Nats almost certainly wouldn’t push him and risk another injury or a more serious flare-up.

Fister was scheduled to make one more minor league start leading up to his first turn in the Nats’ rotation. Had he thrown the 60 pitches yesterday, he would’ve gone around 75 in that final spring start, prepping him for possibly around 90 pitches or five innings in his regular season outing. But that progression is now all thrown out of whack, and Fister still has a good bit of building of arm strength to do.

All of this is just talk and conjecture, of course. I’m clearly not a doctor. I clearly haven’t examined Fister’s lat. (Nor would anyone ask me to. That’d be creepy.)

But I do know that the Nats will take things slowly with Fister, and the days separating us from April 6 - the right-hander’s planned regular season debut - are dwindling.

The fear here, beyond Fister just missing a start or two, is that this is something serious that will keep the Nats’ newest rotation addition out for a longer period. We’ll have to wait to see how things will play out, but the Nats still have both Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan on the spring training roster, and at the moment, it’s sure looking like both of those guys will be in the team’s rotation when the 2014 season kicks off.

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