On Friday morning, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister was scratched from his second scheduled start due to inflammation in his elbow. Fister will go for an MRI while manager Matt Williams assures that it’s a minor problem. Regardless of the MRI results, the Nationals should consider keeping him off the mound until the regular season.
Last December, Mike Rizzo gave up quite a lot to get one of the best starting pitchers in MLB. In a trade with the Detroit Tigers, Steve Lombardozzi, Robbie Ray and Ian Krol were all shipped north in exchange for the right-hander. With all that they gave up, Washington needs to make sure that Fister will be around come Opening Day.
Despite what the MRI results may say, Fister shouldn’t take the mound in Spring Training unless his elbow is at 100-percent. He can pitch, but not in a live game. Instead, Washington should keep him on the same schedule but have him throw simulated games. Those can be controlled — plus it’ll be easier to stop a simulated game if he’s being bothered by his elbow.
Fister is a crucial piece to the Nationals’ pitching staff. Without him, there will be a huge void in the rotation. Having him in the rotation solidifies it as the league’s best. They’ve already got a battle for the fifth pitching spot — adding one more spot in the rotation that needs to be figured out would be a burden. However, they do have pitchers to fill that spot if that need arises.
If Fister isn’t available for Opening Day and has to miss his first several starts, then Washington would simply be able to use one of the three pitchers battling for the fifth spot. Ross Ohlendorf or Tanner Roark, the two battling with Ross Detwiler, would be elevated to rotation while Fister heals. Is that a dream situation? No, it’s not. However, it could always be worse.
Ideally, the Nationals would like to have Fister on the mound for his first scheduled start of the regular season. In order to ensure that, shutting him down and not letting him pitch in a Spring Training game might be a good idea. Instead, Washington would be able to have him pitch simulated games which would serve the same purpose, but they would be able to have the control to keep his arm safe, healthy and ready for the regular season.