AP Business Writer
New Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister was aware of the "rumors going around," as he put it Tuesday, that he or AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer might be traded by the Detroit Tigers.
So while Fister said there's a "world of mixed emotions" about leaving the familiarity and friendships with the Tigers and being "thoroughly excited" about joining the Nationals, he was prepared for Monday's four-player swap.
"Just like when I pitch, I try to stay on an even keel and to really just keep things as even as possible," Fister said on a conference call with reporters. "So not trying to get too high, too low, too excited, too anything."
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said that when he and Tigers counterpart Dave Dombrowski began trade talks last month, three Detroit starters' names were mentioned: Fister, Scherzer and Rick Porcello.
"We originally kicked the tires" on that trio, Rizzo said Tuesday.
After the GM meetings, though, "we turned our focus mostly towards Doug Fister," Rizzo said.
"We really had identified Doug as our primary acquisition target as far as starting pitchers go," Rizzo said during a conference call with reporters. "We thought he was an undervalued asset."
The 6-foot-8 Fister, a right-hander who is 29, will be under team control for the next two years. He went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA last season.
"It's a good day in the Nationals' office when the sabermetricians and the scouts in the field see the players in the same way. It makes things much easier for me. That's what we had here," Rizzo said. "We feel we've got a good defensive infield. Him being a 55-percent groundball guy, I think he'll flourish with that."
Noting that a sinkerball is his main pitch, Fister agreed that his style should mesh well with what he called "a great defense" in Washington.
"I'm going out there trying to induce groundballs, induce bad contact as early in the count as possible. My job is to get through seven innings and keep zeros on the board for our offense to get out there and swing it," he added. "I want to use our defense, utilize the talent that we have out there."
In Monday's trade, Detroit got utility player Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed reliever Ian Krol, and lefty pitching prospect Robbie Ray -- a trio Rizzo called "palatable" to part with.
Fister joins a Nationals rotation that already included Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. As for the fifth member of the staff, while Rizzo said he does not think he needs to acquire another starter, he did not commit to left-hander Ross Detwiler getting the job.
"The difference this year from previous years (is) we've got great depth at that spot. When you talk about Detwiler and (Tanner) Roark and Taylor Jordan and (Nate) Karns and (Sammy) Solis, and then the younger wave of guys that could get here in the future, we feel good about where we're at," Rizzo said.
He called helping the bullpen -- adding a lefty, in particular -- and the bench his priorities for the rest of the offseason.
"We're better suited going into spring training with our left-handed bullpen than we (were) last year. But it's something that we're looking into the free agent market or the trade market and trying to upgrade," Rizzo said. "It's a spot that we feel that we have to upgrade at."
When free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano was brought up by a reporter in a tongue-in-cheek manner, Rizzo did not say the Nationals aren't interested, instead offering something close to his usual response when asked about possible acquisitions.
"Well, those are things that, of course, I'm not going to address with the media on the phone, but like I said, we're going to do what we have to do to improve the ballclub," he said. "We've taken a step forward in acquiring Fister and we're looking forward to tweaking things and making us a better ballclub."
On other topics, Rizzo said:
-- Anthony Rendon will "go into spring training as our starting second baseman. But we're going to have competition at that position, and there's going to be competition for several roster spots."
-- Danny Espinosa, banished to the minors last season after hitting .158 with 47 strikeouts in 158 at-bats, "is going to go to spring training and battle for a job on the roster."
-- Washington "made it clear" to other teams there are a handful of players it wouldn't trade, including Rendon and minor league pitching prospect Lucas Giolito, a 2012 draft pick.
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