[Updated 9:50 p.m.]
He was the Nationals' most consistent pitcher last season and their only starter to win a playoff game, but 7-year veteran Doug Fister will now move to the bullpen.
Manager Matt Williams made the announcement after Thursday's game, saying that rookie Joe Ross will remain in the rotation when Stephen Strasburg returns from the disabled list on Saturday against the Rockies.
"Stras is going to start Saturday and Doug's going to our bullpen," Williams said. "[Fister] wants to pitch. He's willing to do whatever we can to help us win. He was out there [in the bullpen] today and he'll continue to be out there and get innings where we can get him innings. He's a team guy."
Fister, 31, has struggled this season with a 4.60 ERA in 15 starts. He allowed five earned runs, including a career-high three homers, in his last outing on Aug. 3.
Fister was excellent in 2014, his first season with the Nationals. He finished eighth in NL Cy Young voting with a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts. The Nats acquired him in a trade with the Detroit Tigers after the 2013 season.
Now Fister will be a long-relief option for the Nationals.
"It's a difficult task when you've been a starter for so long. The opportunities for him will be long, that's kind of where we see it. It's never easy, but he's willing to go out there and help us win ballgames."
Fister accepting the move was something that impressed his teammates. Fister is in the final year of his contract and has proven himself as a starting pitcher, yet now he will be a reliever for the first time in his career.
"I mean Dougie is great and he’s kind of gone through injuries and stuff this year," Ryan Zimmerman said. "Hopefully that will let his arm get back in shape a little bit, maybe and feel a little bit better. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be a big part of this team for the rest of the year."
"Dougie's a professional. I wouldn't expect him to say anything different," Clint Robinson said. "Tough for him, but I know he's going to go to the bullpen and continue to work. He's going to do everything he can to help us."
"He's a pro. He's a standup guy, he's a good person and he's a team guy," Matt Thornton said. "That's what they want and he's going to accept it. He's probably not all that happy about it, but that's what they want right now and he's going to do his best in whatever role he gets into."
Ross, who was the beneficiary of the move, said he plans to talk to Fister when he gets the chance on Friday.
"I need to go thank him, obviously, because I'm sure he could have just said he wanted to stay. For me to get the opportunity to keep starting and for him to, I guess, choose the role of going to the bullpen, it's great. Anything we can do to win games and make a good playoff run," he said.