VIERA, Fla. (AP) - Doug Fister had to turn right instead of left while leaving the Orlando airport. His spring training home is no longer in Lakeland with the Detroit Tigers to the west, but rather eastward near the Atlantic Ocean with the Washington Nationals.
A superbly-tuned GPS would hone in on his new baseball locale even more, specifically to a clubhouse locker with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez to his right and Jordan Zimmermann on the left. It’s an important spot both physically and metaphorically for the Nationals, who hope the 30-year-old right-hander will stop a revolving door in the rotation.
“I get to sit next to Stras over here,” Fister said Friday after taking his spring training physical, “and I’m going to pick his brain.”
Edwin Jackson in 2012. Dan Haren in 2013. Together they combined to go 20-25, and each had the worst ERA among the five regular Nationals starters in his respective season, albeit for one of the best rotations in the majors.
So a trade with the Tigers brought in Fister, who went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA last year and had a 2.98 ERA in eight postseason appearances with Detroit over three seasons.
Fister’s a lay-low type who won’t clash with the team’s already ample supply of outsized personalities, but he can hold quite the conversation. Just ask him about the impression left on him by his policeman-firefighting father, or about his passion for running - he’s been known to go on 10-mile jaunts between starts.
“It’s something that for me clears any sort of mental or physical problems,” Fister said. “Being able to get out there on the open road and just run, it’s a release of energy and release of stress for me.”
Fister has completed half-marathons with his fiancee and is looking forward to winding his way through the nation’s capital, where day-off runs can be especially scenic with monuments and memorials in the background. If anything, he has to make sure he doesn’t overdo it.
“It’s something that I enjoy,” he said. “But it’s part of the job, so I have to keep it in line.”
Fister and the rest of the pitchers and catchers will hold their first formal workout Saturday. In theory, he shouldn’t have much of a problem adjusting to the regimented schedule of new manager Matt Williams, given the Fister family background in Merced, Calif.
Fister’s dad, Larry, was on the police SWAT team, then later worked at the fire department. Young Doug would hang around at the stations and would later ride along with an uncle who was a detective.
“As a kid, you see your dad as Superman, and I still do,” Fister said. “But being around the SWAT team, you’re still in awe. It’s like you watch in D.C., with all the different agencies around. I love the CIA, the FBI, all the different agencies, how they coordinate, how they work. Tactically how they handle a situation. That’s kind of how I’ve been brought up.
“It’s not just go out there and shoot, shoot, shoot. It’s, tactically, why would I be doing this? I need to make a decision if this is right, if this is wrong, and just kind of making every decision at the snap. I try to take those things in terms of baseball and switch them around to how I may be able to interpret them for my best of what I do here.”
Hearing Fister speak, it’s clear that he might have followed in his father’s footsteps if baseball hadn’t worked out. Of course, it’s always an option down the road, even though he studied to become an elementary school teacher at Fresno State.
But first, there’s the matter of settling an unsettled spot in the Nationals rotation. While he’s not expected to be the leader of such a talented group, his extended postseason experience could be invaluable.