Fister puts last year in rearview mirror

Veteran notches four strikeouts in debut with Astros

Fister puts last year in rearview mirror

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With every outing, every pitch, Doug Fister puts last year's disappointment in his rearview mirror and knows he's closer to embracing his new start. That's what made Thursday at Bright House Field an important step in the right direction for the newest member of the Astros' rotation.

Fister, making his Spring Training debut for the Astros, threw two scoreless innings in the Astros' 3-2 win over the Phillies. He allowed two hits, one walk and struck out four, but pitching lines don't matter much at this point. Fister is focusing on arm angles and control and meshing with new catchers, which on Thursday meant Max Stassi.

"It was overall a good day," Fister said. "Obviously, things like the four-pitch walk kind of stick out to me and say, 'Hey, there's still a lot of room for improvement,' and kind of honing the skills back down and shaking a lot of the stuff off today. It felt good to get back out there, get out there and have a couple of ups and downs and kind of get tired out. It was a good workload, but also on the flip side, it's really special to be able to start play with these guys and really kind of see timing and personalities and how this game is going to come about this year. I think we've got a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to it."

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At 32 years old, Fister is looking for a bounce-back season and another run to the playoffs on a team many expect to work deep into October. He'll be a huge part of the Astros' success if he can eat up innings -- he signed for $7 million and could earn as much a $12 million based on innings pitched -- and prove last year's elbow woes are behind him.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch was pleased at what he saw from Fister.

"It was good to get him out there and break a sweat," Hinch said. "You know, he got burned a little bit with a couple of early hits, but he threw strikes for the most part and got his first action. He knows what he's doing. I obviously don't look too much into the first outing, but to get into the game and get out of it unscathed is a pretty good start."

Fister spent the previous two seasons with the Nationals, going 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 25 games last year (15 starts). Fister battled his mechanics, as well as a flexor tendon injury last year, and he is confident he can regain his 2014 form, when he was 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in 25 starts. But last year, he learned to deal with adversity and having to pitch out of the bullpen.

"I take it as a learning experience," Fister said. "Obviously not where I wanted to be. I definitely had some ups and downs, but really what it comes down to, we're going to face adversity, we're going to face some hard times and there's no room for complaining in this game. Nobody is going to really feel sorry for you. You've got to go out there and earn it back. For me, that's what I want to do. I want to come back and build back as a starter and be somebody my teammates can rely on."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.