Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
When the Washington Nationals traded for Doug Fister in December, they not only knew that they were getting a pitcher who has had great success in the big leagues, but they also knew they were getting a pitcher who has always had great success around him.
During his seven-year career, Fister has had the opportunity to pitch in the same rotation as Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee in Seattle, and Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in Detroit. Despite playing with arguably some of the best pitchers in the history of the game, Fister thinks that the Nationals’ rotation could be even better than any rotation he’s pitched in before.
"“I’ve certainly been blessed to be a part of some teams and rotations I’ve been with,” Fister said Saturday at NatsFest, according to CSNWashington.com. “I think here we are just as good, if not better.”"
Some pitchers don’t like being in a rotation with a lot of big names. For some pitchers, it is very important to be ‘the guy’. Clearly, that is not the case for Fister, as he has been pitching behind other big name players for most of his career. For Fister, it doesn’t matter who is the number one guy. What matters is that everyone in the rotation works together for the good of the team, something that Fister hopes will happen with the Nationals.
"“Being able to meet them face-to-face, and being able to look forward to playing with them is something special to me,” he said at NatsFest. “As a starting pitcher, I want to be a part of a rotation that works together, that brings the team sense into the five.”"
The arms around him usually make him the number three or four starter on the team, but that certainly does not mean he lacks the stuff to be a number one pitcher on any team. Fister finished 2013 with a 14-9 record and was a key player in the Tigers’ deep playoff run. The 29-year-old Fister has also had great postseason success throughout his career, the mark of a true number one starter.
Despite everything he has accomplished throughout his career, Fister has never been considered the ‘ace’ on any team, and he likely won’t be considered the ace of the Nationals any time soon. But while that may be an issue with pitchers who feel the need to be the best starter on the team, it is certainly not an issue with Fister who is more than excited to pitch for the Nationals in 2014.
"“I’m very excited to be a part of this staff because of the guys that we have here. Not just on the staff, but in the club house,” Fister said. “Being able to receive phone calls and text messages from teammates is really special to me. Nationals ballpark is just a terrific ball park. It’s not cheap and it’s well deserved. I’m looking forward to be able to play with the teammates that we have. I’m going to go up there and say swing at it, hit it, and hit it to one of our guys. I’m excited.”"
Fister has yet to throw a pitch in a Nationals uniform and he has already shown the team and its fans that he is a team player. Fister embraces the opportunity to be in one of the best rotations in baseball, even though he’ll likely be written off as the number four starter. While it may not seem important because he’ll be pitching every fifth day anyway, being the ‘ace’ is very important to some pitchers and it can lead to tensions in the clubhouse. Team players like Fister are crucial for young ball clubs like the Nationals because they ensure that the team will have the right chemistry in the clubhouse to play at their best on the field.
Not only has Fister embraced the idea of pitching in the shadow of others throughout his career, he has most likely used it to his advantage. One can only imagine the talks he had with Hernandez and Lee in the Seattle dugout. Or the long discussions he had with Verlander and Scherzer on the countless long bus rides that make up the baseball season. At some point, these guys had to have talked pitching- mechanics, grips, tricks, how to attack certain hitters and who knows what else. We can only imagine all the things Fister has learned from them, and all the things they’ve learned from him.
There’s a reason people say that a good pitcher makes everyone else in the rotation better. It’s because they work as a team. And based on Fister’s attitude towards his role with the Nationals, I have a feeling he’ll get along just fine with the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann and that they’ll make an excellent team. Adding Fister made the rotation better not only because of the great pitching he brings to the table, but also because of the impact that he can have on the other young starters, and the impact that they can have on him.
You know you’re in good shape when your rotation is being compared to one that included Sherzer, Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez. Baseball writers and analysts can compare the best rotations in baseball all they want and they may very well disagree with the claim that the Nationals have a better rotation than the Tigers. But Doug Fister has not only seen the best pitchers in the game, he’s also played with the best pitchers in the game. Wherever Fister has played, he has seen some of the best pitching that baseball has to offer on his own team. Fister has seen it all, and if he says that the Nationals have a better rotation than the Tigers, then I certainly believe him.