Joe Ross remains in rotation, Doug Fister sent to bullpen

Following another impressive performance from rookie Joe Ross in the Nationals’ 8-3 win over the Diamondbacks, manager Matt Williams announced a major shakeup to the starting rotation.

“Doug (Fister) is gonna go to our bullpen,” Williams said.

Joe Ross throwing white.jpgRoss will remain in the rotation with Stephen Strasburg (strained left oblique) set to return from the disabled list to start Saturday night against the Rockies at Nationals Park. The next start for Ross will come early next week in Los Angeles.

Fister was arguably the Nationals’ most reliable starter in his first season with the Nationals in 2014, leading the team with 16 wins and a 2.41 ERA while also claiming the only win in the NLDS.

But Fister has struggled to find consistency this year. His season was derailed for more than a month when he landed on the DL after suffering a right flexor strain on May 14. Fister’s velocity was a few ticks down, and he battled command issues with his normally effective sinker.

Over 15 starts, Fister is just 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA. He has already allowed 44 earned runs over 86 innings after taking 164 innings last season to reach that mark.

After spending all seven years of his career in the majors as a starter, Fister now attempts to make the transition to the bullpen for the Nats’ playoff push.

“(Fister) wants to pitch,” Williams said. “He’s willing to do whatever he can to help us win. So he was out there today, and he’ll continue to be out there and get innings where we can get him innings. He’s a team guy. He’s ready to pitch at any moment to do whatever he can.

“It’s a difficult task when you’ve been a starter for so long. The opportunities for him will be long (relief). That’s kind of where we see it. It’s never easy, but he’s willing to go out there and do what he can to help us win a ballgame.”

Meanwhile, Williams has indicated that the 22-year-old Ross is on an innings limit, but he has not revealed what the ceiling is.

“That’s still unclear,” Williams said. “We’re gonna go and see where we get to and make decisions as we need to down the road.”

In seven starts with the Nats this season, Ross is 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA while striking out 47 and walking just four over 45 innings.

“It’s rare,” Williams said of Ross’ composure in his first year. “But he understands if he makes pitches, he has a chance to get them out. We’ve seen so far that he doesn’t walk a whole lot of guys and makes you put the ball in play and that’s important. His ball has good late movement on his fastball and a good slider to go along with it for strikes when he needs it and out of the zone to get a swing and miss, too.”

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