For five innings on Thursday night, Doug Fister matched Rays' ace Chris Archer despite having not pitched in a major league game in over a month. But then he ran into trouble in the sixth inning and finished the night with his third loss of the season in a 5-3 Nationals defeat.
The end result aside, Fister took positives from his return from a right forearm strain. He adjusted his mechanics while rehabbing on the disabled list and still believes he has more hurdles to cross before he is fully back to form.
"I felt a lot better. Obviously it's a work in progress," he said. "I'm pleased with where I'm at at this point. It didn't go our way tonight, but look at it objectively we've got some things that I can come in tomorrow and work on."
Fister left in the sixth inning and ended the night with a line of 5 1/3 innings pitched, nine hits, five earned runs, three strikeouts, a home run and zero walks. Afterwards he spoke extensively about the mechanical adjustment he is working through.
"There was a couple of photos that I saw afterwards. The position my body was in, staying back over the rubber. Being able to use my legs and let my arm work freely. Those are very big keys for me," he said.
"Staying back and using my legs. That's the biggest thing. Before the injury, I was really getting top heavy and kind of leaning over my front leg and not really using my legs at all. All the stress was on my arm and my forearm and everywhere else. This allows me to really kind of get back into my legs and use some of my height as deception. Tonight seemed to feel a little bit better."
Fister said he has a goal of building up to 100 or 110 pitches and called throwing 87 on Thursday a "step in the right direction." He threw 70 pitches in his final rehab outing with Double-A Harrisburg last Friday night.
"You really have to build up to it. Any time you change mechanics or change your approach, you do have to take a little time and kind of rebuild back up to midseason strength," he said. "
"Endurance-wise, that is something I take a lot of pride in running and really making sure that I'm able to go the distance, per se. But tonight... I felt good."