VIERA, Fla. — Three weeks removed from his first (and only) appearance in a Grapefruit League this spring, Doug Fister is ready to face big-league hitters again.
Fister, out since March 2 with elbow inflammation, is scheduled start Saturday against the Marlins, Nationals manager Matt Williams said.
Fister will throw three innings or 45 pitches, according to Williams, another step in his attempt to ready himself for the start of the regular season.
Since noting elbow pain following his 2-inning spring debut against Miami, Fister has slowly worked his way back. He was shut down for about a week after an MRI revealed inflammation but no structural damage to the elbow. He played catch on flat ground three times, moving back from 60 feet to 120 feet. He threw a bullpen session. And on Monday he pitched two innings in a minor-league game at the complex down the street from Space Coast Stadium, his first game action since the injury cropped up.
The Nationals face a compressed window to get Fister ready to open the season on time. If all goes according to plan, he’ll pitch three innings on Saturday, then four innings on March 27 in the Nationals’ Grapefruit League finale against the Mets. He could potentially remain in Florida after the rest of the teams heads north to pitch in one more minor-league game before rejoining them and making his first turn in the rotation.
Williams would like the veteran right-hander to be as stretched out as possible by season’s start. Fister’s status could affect the Nationals’ final bullpen decision. If the club isn’t confident he’s ready to pitch six innings in his regular season debut, Williams might elect to keep another long reliever in his Opening Day bullpen (perhaps Tanner Roark, if he loses the competition for No. 5 starter to Taylor Jordan).