KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Not only did Doug Fister come through yesterday's throwing session without any incident, the Nationals right-hander felt good enough that the team is having him throw off of flat ground again today, manager Matt Williams said.
Fister felt discomfort in his right elbow after his spring training debut against the Marlins on March 2, and an MRI revealed that the veteran righty had inflammation in the elbow. After being shut down and getting treatment on the elbow for a week, Fister played catch yesterday, and felt good. He'll throw again today and if there are no issues, he could get back on a mound within a few days.
Despite the amount of time that Fister has missed with this elbow issue, Williams said yesterday that if the 30-year-old progresses without any further setbacks, he could still be a part of the Nats' opening day rotation. Two days off in the Nats' first eight days on the regular season schedule will allow the team to be flexible with how to use Fister early on.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, meanwhile, was scheduled to make the trip here to Kissimmee today, but the Nats left him back in Viera. Zimmerman is dealing with some general body soreness, Williams said, and so the Nats are giving him most of the day to rest up.
"He's been working at first, doing other things, turning different ways than he's used to turning," Williams said. "So just giving him a day. He's good, though."
Zimmerman got in some work at first base yesterday and the day before, and continues to work on his footwork around the bag and receiving throws. But that's not the biggest hurdle that Zimmerman needs to overcome before the Nats feel comfortable putting him at first in a spring game.
"The understanding of where he needs to be on any given play is the stuff we're going over now," Williams said. "Bunt play responsibilities, cut-offs, relays, that kind of stuff. But he's good. He'll get it and then we'll get him in a game."
And when will that be, exactly?
"As soon as we can," Williams said. "Again, I want to make sure we get him enough at-bats and that he feels good there first and foremost. He's still doing work over there and just want to make sure he's comfortable before we get him out there in a game situation. We'll get to it eventually."
Like Fister, left-hander Sammy Solis hasn't pitched in a game since March 2. The issue with Solis, Williams said today, is back spasms.
Solis allowed three hits in two scoreless innings in his only spring game to this point, but his back subsequently started acting up a bit. The 25-year-old is being moved along slowly as he works back.
"We're making sure that we progress him," Williams said. "Any time you're out a few days this time of year, then you need to get back on a mound, back (in the) bullpen, progress him the right way. He's good, though."
Williams briefly commented on the two 22-year-old pitchers that the Nationals sent over to minor league camp this morning - righty A.J. Cole and lefty Felipe Rivero. Both guys impressed this spring before being cut this morning.
"I like both of them," Williams said. "The plan is for both of them to start, so we need to start increasing their innings. A.J.'s going to pitch tomorrow in a game over there and increase him to four innings. We didn't have those innings here, so we decided to send him over there to make sure that he's prepared for opening day. Rivero's kind of the same."
It's raining here in Kissimmee, and based on the radar that I've seen for the next few hours, we might have to deal with some weather issues at points throughout the afternoon. The tarp is on the field here with a little over an hour until the scheduled first pitch, so we'll see how this plays out.
Update: The start of today's game is being delayed due to rain, but things have cleared here recently. The tarp is off the field and they're going to try to get this one in.
The Astros have set 2:05 p.m. as the estimated first pitch time.