Fister passes 35-pitch bullpen session with no problems (plus bullpen note)

Injured right-hander Doug Fister threw 35 pitches during a bullpen session in Atlanta this afternoon and came through without any issues from his strained right lat or the right elbow that troubled him during spring training.

"It was really impressive," said Nationals manager Matt Williams. "He threw it where he wanted to, he had good life, he felt good after. So we'll progress from there, but it's a really encouraging sign."

While Fister threw mostly fastballs and changeups, he also missed in some breaking pitches, just to see if he could throw them without any problems, Williams said.

The next step for Fister, who landed on the 15-day disabled list with the strained lat at the end of spring training, will be to lengthen out in game situations. The normal progression would be for him to pitch next in a simulated game.

"I think he's going to have to have some game situations," Williams said. "The simulated issue is something we're going to have to talk about, where he can really simulate a game on the road, at home or whatever. ... The question is, as he progresses and gets to more and more pitches, it's difficult to do that. We'll see."

Williams said Fister will be sent out on a minor league rehabilitation assignment so he can work from 35 pitches to 50 pitches to deeper into games. But the timetable is still to be determined.

"The question is when," the manager said. "We don't know when."

The Nationals seem to be focusing on Fister's recovery from the lat issue, as opposed to the elbow inflammation he worked through during spring camp.

"All of his throwing, ... he hasn't reported any problems with the elbow," Williams said.

No 'pen shuffle: The Nationals chose not to activate left-hander Xavier Cedeno for tonight's game, and will go with the same bullpen crew that has thrown 34 innings, fourth-most in the National Legaue this season.

Right-hander Craig Stammen will likely be unavailable after throwing 52 pitches over 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday night. WIlliams might also want to stay away from closer Rafael Soriano, who has pitched the last two nights.

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