KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros pitcher Doug Fister doesn't waste much time between pitches. He gets the ball and goes at a rapid pace, keeping his infielders on their toes and opposing batters on alert. For a ground-ball pitcher like Fister, defense and positioning are key.
Fister, who will likely be the Astros' fourth starter after signing a $7 million deal in the offseason, made his second start of the Grapefruit League season in Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Nationals. He allowed two hits, one run and three walks while striking out three batters in three innings. He generated five ground-ball outs, including a pair that struck off of him and ricocheted to defenders.
"A lot of it is on the defense," Fister said. "We have a great defense, young and energetic and guys that move around a lot. If I can get on the rubber and make a few pitches here and there and get them back in the dugout to hit, then I'm doing my job. I've got to use those guys as much as I can and rely on them."
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Gold Glove second baseman Jose Altuve hadn't played behind Fister prior to Tuesday, and he smiled when asked about the quick pace.
"It's really good," he said. "You always get a lift when the pitcher works that quick. He keeps you in the game. It seems like he's going to get the inning over in 30 seconds. We're there to support him. That's my first time playing behind him, and I really like it."
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said working at such a quick pace can be taxing on Fister this early in camp, but that's all part of building up stamina during the spring.
"He'll work fast and try to get himself tired, and this early in camp that can be a little bit of a detriment because he doesn't have quite the endurance he's going to have in a couple of weeks," Hinch said. "We want him to continue to locate his pitches. This breaking ball that he's working on and his changeup is something he's doing, and yet he's still trying to make a good impression and compete.
"He's at his best when he's getting early count ground balls, and when he gets it on the ground hopefully we're positioned well enough to get the outs. I look for him to work fast."
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.