The Washington Times - December 3, 2013, 05:37PM

The rumors swirled, one high profile teammate was traded and Doug Fister was just waiting for the phone to ring.

It is an offseason of change in Detroit, where the Tigers lost manager Jim Leyland to retirement, sent first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas and were intent on trading from their deep starting rotation to fill other holes on the roster and clear space in the budget for other options.

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It could just as easily have been fellow pitcher Max Scherzer, whose name was in heavy rotation over the last month in trade talks. But Fister was the one targeted by the Nationals and he was the one who received a phone call on Monday saying a deal had gone through.

“You’re a world of mixed emotions. There’s friendships and brotherhood and everything that I’ll be leaving,” Fister said. “But I’m thoroughly excited to be heading to the Nationals. It’s one of those things that I’ve come to realize. I want to know a lot of guys in the league and have some [different] experiences to play in the NL, play in the AL and be able to have those experiences and to be able to have the relationships that we have.”

Fister joins a formidable rotation that includes Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. It’s nothing new for him. He leaves behind Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who teamed to win two of the last three AL Cy Young Awards. He heard from new teammate Ian Desmond via text on Tuesday morning and had a cell phone number for Adam LaRoche, too.

Like a kid whose family has moved before, Fister knows the routine. He was traded in the middle of the season in 2011 from Seattle, the organization that drafted him in 2006 out of Fresno State, to the Tigers and helped them win the AL Central three years in a row and reach the World Series in 2012.

“I think it definitely helps being traded once before in my career,” Fister said. “I’m not taking it lightly by any means. I’m excited for it. But I’m trying to take it with a level head and to really just focus on getting ready to be in Viera for spring and be able to get ready for Washington. Just like when I pitch, I try and stay on an even keel and to really just keep things as even as possible.”

Fister said he’s ready to pick up a bat moving from the AL to the NL. It’s one of the little things he likes to emphasize. Another? Holding runners on base. Few have been better than Fister in recent years and few teams have been worse at it consistently than the Nats. He allowed eight stolen bases in 2013, but only 13 runners even bothered to try him.

In Fister’s career, 16 of 31 runners have successfully stolen a base against him. And that’s over 818 2/3 innings. Strasburg has allowed 30 of 38 to steal in just 434 1/3 innings. Gonzales is worse at 58 stolen bases in 75 attempts over 930 1/3 innings. Zimmermann has pitched 692 2/3 innings and allowed 38 of 57 runners to successfully steal. Some of that is on a pitchers’ catcher, too, of course. But that’s a large enough sample size that we can see Fister is just better at it than most of his new teammates.

“That is definitely a focal point, especially in bullpen sessions in spring training,” Fister said. “If I can work on things, work on timing, work on the mixing up of my delivery to where I can make it a second nature-type feeling that I don’t have to think about during the season, that’s my goal. I want to be able to control the running game and help the catcher out, if possible.”