- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2015

VIERA, Fla. — As far as expiring contracts go, the spotlight in Washington has typically been on shortstop Ian Desmond and starter Jordan Zimmermann this offseason. Sometimes it’s easy for Doug Fister to get lost in the mix.

Like Desmond and Zimmermann, Fister’s contract with the Nationals is due to run out at the conclusion of the upcoming season, making him a free agent. Though there is always a certain degree of uncertainty in baseball, this contract situation adds additional instability. Fister’s second season with the Nationals may very well be his last.

“It’s an experience I’ve had before, facing trade deadlines before,” Fister said Thursday. “I’ve learned how to block it out, forget anything else. I know I’m a part of this team, and that’s all that matters. I don’t mess around with any rumors, I don’t mess around with any outside influences. I just go into each day knowing I’m a part of the team, and that’s what I want to be. I want to be one of 25 guys here and add what I can.”

Fister was later asked whether he would like to stay with the Nationals beyond 2015.

“I’m wearing this jersey right now, and that’s the most important thing to me,” he said. “I’m a National through and through right now, and I’m proud of it. If it looks in the future that I can stay here, great. If not, I’ve got to make sure I get my job done and be a part of the team that I’m a part of.”

Fister’s future in Washington became murky when the Nationals signed starter Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210 million contract late last month. Between Scherzer, Fister, Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals have four starters who could have $100 million contracts by 2017.

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Washington probably won’t have enough money to pay them all. And as the oldest of the group, at 31, Fister could be the odd man out.

That notion alone seems crazy considering how Fister’s first year in Washington unfolded. After missing the first month of the season with an oblique injury, the right-hander blossomed into the team’s most consistent starter. He finished 16-6 with a 2.41 earned-run average, which ranked fourth in the National League, and walked only 24 batters in 164 innings. He also pitched seven scoreless innings to guide the Nationals past Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

Fister was one of the first players to arrive at Space Coast Stadium on Thursday, when pitchers and catchers were due to report to the team facility. He said his offseason wasn’t different than any other, and he doesn’t feel any additional pressure this season, despite his contract situation.

“Pressure is what you put on yourself,” he said. “I want to enjoy the moment as it is. I’ve prepared myself this offseason, as I always do, try to come in and be as healthy as possible, as consistent as possible, and want to enjoy the moment with these guys.”

Scherzer and Fister were teammates in Detroit for three seasons. Before last season, Scherzer reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million contract with the Tigers, essentially betting that he could improve his own value and get a larger deal on the open market. Fister said he has not talked to Scherzer about any type of strategy when entering a contract year.

“We just want to play,” Fister said. “We’ll leave all that stuff up to you guys. It’s just speculation. We have to go out there and execute.”

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