Matt Williams’ pregame session on Thursday covered a wide array of subjects involving the Nationals including some good news on Doug Fister and the skipper’s early impressions of MLB’s system of manager’s challenges.
First, the Fister part. The right-hander played catch before Thursday’s game and is now slated to throw a bullpen within the next two days, depending on how his right lat strain responds on Friday.
“It was a good step today. He feels good,” Williams said. “Flat ground today. He came through it well and his next step is a bullpen. Probably could be tomorrow, depending on how he feels. If not, it will be the next day.”
After the shortest start of Jordan Zimmermann’s career on Wednesday night, the Nationals’ bullpen is a bit squeezed heading into Thursday's game. Williams said Tanner Roark – who is supposed to start Friday against the Braves – is available as a long reliever, if needed.
He could also use Ross Detwiler despite the lefty having never pitched two consecutive games before in his career.
“[Detwiler will] go out and throw and we’ll evaluate,” Williams said. “But yeah, he’s available today. We’d like to stay away from him if we could. But you don’t know what’s going to happen in the course of a game. So we’ll evaluate that at the time. But in a perfect world, I wouldn’t want to get him in a game today, but you never know. [Jerry] Blevins is good so that’s another option for us from the left side.”
The Nationals did not rule out taking an extra pitcher to Atlanta with them in case of an emergency.
“We could do that. It depends how it goes today and what transpires. Hopefully that’s not an issue and we won’t have to worry about it. But we could, yeah. We’d certainly have to make a move in that regard, but we could.”
There were also two sort of random topics we got Williams to discuss in depth. First, here are his thoughts on Nationals Park as a baseball stadium, whether he feels it favors the pitcher or hitter:
“I think it’s a function of weather right now. Jayson Werth hit the first ball to center field last night really well and so that’s a testament to how well [Jarrod] Saltalamacchia hits. I think Stanton hit one really well to center field last night, too. So I think it’s a function of cooler weather right now, certainly wind and if we get into June, I don’t know if any of those stay in the ballpark. So I think it depends on weather.
"I think it’s fair overall. It’s fairly big in center field, big wall in right, especially right-center, so you’ve really got to hit one to hit it out there. So I think it’s fair overall but it’s playing a little larger right now, last night anyways. Day game may change things. It’s a little warmer out there today so the ball may carry a little better… When it’s cool, you’ve really got to hit it. I think Jayson hit that first ball last night really well and it just didn’t go anywhere.”
Speaking of the weather, Williams said it has come up a few times when talking to umpires during games this year. No, seriously. Williams went into detail about what he talks about with umpires while stalling for the dugout to tell him to challenge a call or not:
“We talk about the weather. We talk about ‘hey, how is your family, how was the winter?’ or ‘Boy, my ankle really hurts, we played fungo golf with the coaches,’ stuff like that. Randy [Knorr] gives me the thumbs up or thumbs down and I say ‘have a nice evening.’ It’s just, they know why you’re out there, it’s a cordial conversation. The biggest thing I’ve seen before is that there is not a lot of arguing within the game. Between manager and umpire, or player and umpire, there’s not a lot of that because we know we have the ability to take a second look.”
On the subject of arguing, Williams says the challenge system has nearly eliminated it from games, but he is not afraid to use it as a tactic to fire up his team if necessary.
“If I want to fire the team up and I want to go out there for that purpose, then I’m going to go out to argue. There’s nothing wrong, in my opinion, in going out and arguing a call. But ultimately, at the end of the day, we have to decide whether we want to reverse it.”