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Fister feels good about return despite loss to Rays

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Fister feels good about return despite loss to Rays

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."

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Nationals-Phillies postponed on Monday night

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Nationals-Phillies postponed on Monday night

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper came back to the District on Monday. No baseball was played.

Rain storms cycled through the DMV starting around 6 p.m. at first delaying the series-opening game between the Nationals and Phillies, before it was finally postponed at 10 p.m. The game will be made up as part of a split-doubleheader on Wednesday. The first game is at 1:05 p.m., the second at 7:05 p.m.

The Tuesday starters for both teams remain the same: Patrick Corbin for the Nationals and Jake Arrieta for the Phillies.

Washington will need an extra starter during the week because it is playing seven games in six days. For instance, the Nationals could call someone up to pitch the first game Wednesday, and have Max Scherzer pitch on regular rest Wednesday night. The doubleheader being played Wednesday instead of Tuesday allows the Nationals plenty of time to import a starter for the day, if they choose to do it then.

However, Tuesday’s forecast is also rain-filled. Stay tuned.

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

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Nationals introduce first round pick Jackson Rutledge, who is ready to work

WASHINGTON -- Jackson Rutledge may still be years away from the majors, but as the Nationals' 2019 first round pick toured the team's ballpark for the first time on Monday, he sure looked the part as a big leaguer.

At 6-foot-8, Rutledge towers over everyone currently on the Nationals' roster. He's got prototypical pitcher size with a fastball that reaches triple digits.

Like any pitcher recently drafted, no matter the round, there is a good chance Nationals fans will not hear Rutledge's name again for quite some time, if they hear it again at all.

In the previous eight years, the team used their first pick in the draft on a pitcher six times. Only two of them - Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde - have pitched in a Nationals uniform, and only Fedde is currently on their roster.

Rutledge, 20, will begin his journey with the Gulf Coast League Nationals. He heads there on Friday, hoping it will not be long before he is back in Washington.

"This is my first time in D.C.," Rutledge said. "Amazing stadium."

Rutledge signed his first contract with the Nationals on Monday and passed a physical in the morning. In the afternoon, he walked around the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice, introducing himself to manager Davey Martinez and players who could be his future teammates.

Rutledge has said in various interviews since being drafted earlier this month that he looks forward to playing with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, the Nationals' three ace starters. 

This was his first glimpse at them in-person.

"Meeting all the big league guys was really cool," he said. "I just want to be one of those guys that has that success."

If there was any impression Rutledge left on Monday, beyond his height, it was his eagerness to learn. He cited several of his mentors over the years, former big leaguers like Andy Benes who coached him in summer ball and Woody Williams, an assistant coach at San Jacinto Community College. He mentioned Tom Arrington, head coach at San Jacinto, and his attention to detail.

Rutledge even had praise for Ross Detwiler, a former Nationals pitcher whom they took in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He explained how Detwiler taught him a changeup grip during an offseason workout that he has continued to use.

Those are the people, he says, who helped him arrive at this unexpected place in his life as a first-round draft pick.

"If you asked me a year and a half ago where I would be, I probably wouldn't say the first round. It worked out really well because of how hard I worked," Rutledge said.

His college numbers were certainly impressive. Rutledge held a 0.87 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 13 starts. As a freshman at Arkansas before transferring, he posted a 3.45 ERA in 12 starts.

Rutledge is now looking forward to taking the next steps in his development. He said working on his curveball and changeup will be the focus while he's in the GCL. He wants to add weight and muscle to prepare for next year, his first full pro season. 

Assuming he does someday return to Washington as a big league pitcher, Rutledge said to expect a guy who likes to work fast but without a lot of emotion.

"When things are going well, I really feel in control of the game. I feel like I'm setting the game at my own pace and hitters feel uncomfortable because of that," he said. 

"I'm not a guy that's going to get up and start yelling and give energy like that, I'm more of a consistent kind of flat body language sort of guy."

Nationals fans will hope to get to know him better someday. For now, it's down to the minors to learn the ropes as a prospect.

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