LAKELAND, Fla. - Rain continues to pelt the tarp at Joker Marchant Stadium, and fans hadn’t been notified that the game was canceled when media members met with Nationals manager Matt Williams outside the visiting clubhouse.
The first clue: equipment backs being loaded up to return to Viera.
The second clue: when reliever Jerry Blevins started a parade of players dressed in street clothes heading for the parking lot for the (hopefully) 90-minute drive back to Space Coast Stadium.
* Williams said Fister felt “fine” in his two-inning, 30-pitch effort in a minor league game Monday morning.
It would be the manager’s preference for the right-hander’s next outing to be for three innings in a Grapefruit League game, but that decision won’t be made until at least Tuesday morning, when the Nats re-evaluate Fister.
Williams seemed relieved by Fister’s progress. Fister last pitched in a Grapefruit League game March 2 before dealing with right elbow inflammation.
“It’s a load off for him because it’s something he’s never really had before,” Williams said. “It’s part of the deal - you got to get the inflammation out of there first then get back to strengthening. The way he does that is innings. We’re taking those steps, so that’s encouraging.”
* Williams said he had a nice chat with outfielder Steven Souza Jr., one of the six players cut Monday morning. Souza was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
It was clear Souza made a positive impression on the first-year skipper.
“I just liked his tenacity and the way he goes about it,” Williams said. “He plays with passion and with fire. And he got a chance to play a little bit, which is good, and he showed some things. I told him I was pleased with the way it went, how he performed and how he went about it, and asked him to continue to do that.”
* Left-hander Sammy Solis, who was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg in Monday’s cuts, will be stretched out as a starting pitcher. There had been some talk Solis might break camp with the Nats as a lefty reliever, but the organizational line of thinking is that he’d be more valuable as a starter - and would be able to move into a relief role if the need arose.
“We got to build him that way,” Williams said. “He’ll go down and start and make sure his arm strength is there. If there was a need for us, he could certainly move to the bullpen. He’s done that, it wouldn’t be foreign for him. But we’re going to start him.”