Nationals move struggling Doug Fister to bullpen, will keep Joe Ross in rotation

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With Stephen Strasburg due to come back from the disabled list on Saturday against the Rockies, Mark Zuckerman of CSNMA.com reports that the Nationals have decided to move the struggling Doug Fister to the bullpen while keeping rookie Joe Ross in the starting rotation.

Fister finished eighth in the balloting for the 2014 NL Cy Young Award after posting a 2.41 in 25 starts, but he hasn’t looked anything like that pitcher so far this season. The 31-year-old has a 4.60 ERA through 15 starts and has already allowed as many earned runs as he did all last year. He missed some time during the first half with a flexor strain in his elbow and has shown diminished velocity, so the Nationals can’t afford to keep running him out there every fifth day as they try to keep pace with the first-place Mets in the National League East.

The decision was handed down after Ross had another strong start this afternoon against the Diamondbacks, tossing six innings of one-run ball while striking out seven batters and walking none. The 22-year-old rookie owns an impressive 2.80 ERA and 47/4 K/BB ratio in 45 innings and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all seven of his starts. He has already thrown 121 innings this season between the majors and the minors, essentially matching his career-high workload from last year, so a potential shutdown has been discussed. However, he’s deserving of getting a longer look.