Remember that groan-inducing split right-hander Doug Fister pulled out of his hip pocket in his last start against Philadelphia, the play that reminded people that Fister was a nimble first baseman in junior college?
If Nationals manager Matt Williams has his way, you won’t be seeing it any more.
While discussing Fister’s impact on the Nats rotation since his return from a lat injury this afternoon in San Francisco, talk turned toward the pitcher’s all-out aggressiveness - on the mound and off of it.
“He’s a position player in a pitcher’s body,” Williams said of Fister. “That mentality’s great. You see balls go over the dugout and he’s running over there. That’s good. ... You can’t take that away. That’s just aggressiveness.”
That split against the Phillies, when Fister covered first base on an attempt to finish off a 3-6-1 double play, was like a trick a gymnast would perform. Fister was a junior college first baseman, so that kind of footwork around the bag isn’t a foreign concept to him. But Williams would prefer to have him focused on the mound rather than making a play that could cause an injury.
“No more splits,” Williams said. “Pretty flexible dude, though. Good wingspan. We don’t want any more of those.”
Given the stretch of good fortune the Nats are enjoying with their starting pitchers, there’s no reason to tempt fate. Washington starters have recorded five straight quality starts and over their last six outings, they’ve become the first team in major league history to strike out 47 and walk none.
“The guys have been going about it in a good way,” Williams said. “We would certainly never expect our starting pitcher to go nine every day. That’s unreal expectation. That being said, we’re all pleased. They’re pleased at the way they’re going about it. They hope to continue it.”
Fister has been a steadying influence, which is exactly what the Nationals wanted when they acquired him from the Tigers in the offseason. The righty is 4-1 with a 3.19 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, with two walks and 28 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings.
“I think it helps,” Williams said when asked about Fister’s impact. “The way he goes about it out there is impressive, because he just grabs the ball and goes again. ... Positive impact? Sure. We didn’t have him to start the season with, but since he’s been back, he’s been great.”
Williams wrote third baseman Anthony Rendon’s name into tonight’s lineup, but with a caveat: Rendon has to get through pregame batting practice without any soreness in his right hand.
Rendon hasn’t played since being removed from Friday night’s game in San Diego after having a Carlos Quentin grounder go off his right hand. The swelling is pretty much dissipated, but Williams wants to make sure there’s no lingering soreness.
“We’re going to see what BP brings,” Williams said. “He’s in there, but we’ll monitor it closely. If he has any problem in BP, we’ll make a change. But he hit earlier today, took his grounders yesterday and threw across the diamond and felt OK. We’ll get through BP and see how he is.”