NEW YORK -- When David Price suffered his second left elbow injury of the season in the third week in July, the Red Sox turned to veteran Doug Fister in hopes he could just provide some stability in the fifth spot in the rotation.Really, there was no way to know
NEW YORK -- When David Price suffered his second left elbow injury of the season in the third week in July, the Red Sox turned to veteran Doug Fister in hopes he could just provide some stability in the fifth spot in the rotation.
Really, there was no way to know at the time if Fister could actually do so. The Red Sox had claimed him on waivers from the Angels a month earlier, and his first seven appearances for Boston (0-5, 6.04 ERA) made it clear why he had been available in the first place.
But on that same West Coast trip that Price was injured, Fister made a key adjustment to his stride direction and started pitching from the first-base side of the rubber. And that was the start of an overall change in direction for the 33-year-old Fister, who is now back to the reliable starter the Tigers and Nationals used to be able to count on in the most important games.
Fister's resurgence continued under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium on Friday night, when he keyed a 4-1 victory by allowing four hits and a run over seven innings.
"He's been such a boost to this team and our rotation," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "You know, go back to that West Coast trip where he made an adjustment with the stride direction. It got him back in a consistent place where he was maybe with Detroit or with Washington, and just consistent execution. That's what it comes down to. He's got ways to get people out, whether it's east and west or north and south -- he's got a number of different weapons he can go to."
The Yankees saw all of them on Friday, and so have most of Fister's recent opponents. Since moving back into the rotation to replace Price on July 31, Fister is 4-2 with a 3.05 ERA in six starts.
Price is finally starting to gain some momentum in his comeback, but it's unclear if he will have the time to build back to a starter before this season is out. Combine Price's uncertainty with Eduardo Rodriguez's inconsistency and Fister could be an important part of Boston's postseason plans.
• Farrell impressed by Price's bullpen session
Fister has often thrived on the big stage, going 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA in eight postseason starts.
"You know, every start is a big start, a big day," said Fister. "And that's the outlook, that's the focus I take every time out. I try to break it down every pitch and keep it simple, but it's definitely fun to be in a race."
These are days to savor for Fister, who found himself pitching for the Angels' Triple-A Salt Lake affiliate just before he had a chance to resurrect his career with the Red Sox.
"I am so grateful for the opportunity that I've had throughout my career, but to start this season late and kind of go from where I was to where I am, it's an honor for me to be a part of this club," said Fister. "We have an unbelievable clubhouse, a great coaching staff. The on-field stuff takes care of itself, because we try to take care of one another and that's what comes first, is team. And I think for this next month, that's what's going to allow us to take each other where we need to go."
Fister has quickly earned respect in the clubhouse with his work ethic and team-first attitude. But Rick Porcello could have told everyone this was coming. They were rotation mates in Detroit before being reunited this season.
"He is [same guy]," Porcello said. "He goes out there and he attacks you. He's going to give you innings, pitch deep into games. He's everything, in my mind, you want in a starting pitcher."
To Yankees manager Joe Girardi, Friday had to feel like a flashback to Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series, when Fister fired 6 1/3 shutout innings.
"I think it's the late movement he has," Girardi said. "Late movement going both ways, changing speeds. Doug Fister really pitches. That's what he does. He doesn't rely on power. He just kept it off the barrel."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.