Doug Fister singing the “spring training blues,” Yunel Escobar making progress

JUPITER, Fla. - Casey Janssen has spent his entire career pitching in the American League for the Toronto Blue Jays. In the sixth inning of today’s game, with the Nationals holding a 3-2 lead, Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton welcomed Janssen to the National League with a titanic blast that soared well beyond the center field wall at Roger Dean Stadium.

“I would imagine that’s not the only one he’s hit in the last couple years,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “He left one out over and that’s what Giancarlo’s paid to do.”

Stanton entered the game hitting just .167, but quickly got well with a 3-for-3, two-RBI afternoon that also included a sharply hit double off Nats starter Doug Fister. Dig in, Nats fans. Could be 13 more years of dealing with Stanton after the 25-year-old signed a colossal $325 million contract with the Marlins this past offseason.

Doug-Fister-white-sidebar.pngAs for Fister, the tall righty wasn’t at his best, giving up two runs on six hits with one strikeout in four innings of work.

“Nowhere near my best,” Fister said. “There are some things that I need to continue to work on and kind of shake off the rust and kind of get through the spring training blues, if you want to call them that. I’ve got to be able to control, and more than control, command my fastball and my sinker. I haven’t quite got to that point, still working on that. I think that’s my biggest key.”

Fister has allowed three earned runs while scattering 11 hits with three strikeouts and two walks in 8 1/3 innings this spring. He also became the first Nationals pitcher to have the opportunity to hit in a Grapefruit League game, but his bunt attempt didn’t fare so well against Marlins starter Mat Latos.

“Oh, that was horrible,” he said. “We bunt in the cage, we bunt off BP and everything else. Getting back out there in the real world with a pitcher out there, it’s a little different.”

Clint Robinson has been hot at the plate while playing first base and right field this spring. He belted his second home run of the exhibition season and is now batting .417 (10-for-24) with six RBIs.

“He’s making a really good case,” Williams said. “He just continues to play well all over the field. Right field, first base, coming off the bench if we need him to do that. So, yeah, he’s making a real good case.”

The 6-foot-5 Robinson reached the majors in 2012 with the Royals and last year with the Dodgers, but only has a total of 13 big league at-bats.

“I’m trying not to really think about it too much,” Robinson said. “Camp is starting to wind down now and just trying to go out every day and when I get the chance, have as good of at-bats as I can.”

escobar-spring-training-sidebar.jpgJust 16 exhibition games remain for the Nationals before opening day and Williams is still without starters Anthony Rendon, Yunel Escobar and Jayson Werth.

“Yunel is well on his way,” Williams said. “He had a great work session today. He went to 35 grounders, a little more intensity, and put a bat in his hand and did some tee work and flip work. So that’s a good progression for him.”

With a focus on preparing his team for opening day, Williams understands that caution is the best route for his key players in a season lasting seven, or hopefully eight, months.

“You don’t just run them out there every day just to get them at-bats,” Williams said. “You have to stay within that progression. The good thing about it is both Anthony and Jayson, I know them very well. It doesn’t take them long to get going. Yunel, from all indications that I’ve seen, is a quick guy to come to the forefront as far as the swing goes because it’s not a big one. He makes contact. So hopefully those guys will be progressing quickly once they’re able to go.”

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