Doug Fister is an unlikely candidate to be leading the Mariners -- and the American League -- in ERA. Pitching on a staff with 2009 A.L. Cy Young runner-up Felix Hernandez and 2008 A.L. Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee, the 26-year-old Fister sports a 3-2 record to go along with his league-best 2.03 ERA after his first nine starts of the season. Last season, the 6-foot-8, 195-pound right-hander made his big league debut and went 3-4 with a 4.13 ERA in 11 games, including 10 starts. He recently answered some questions from MLBPlayers.com:

MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it surreal to see your name at the top of the list for the lowest earned run average in the American League?

Fister: Honestly, it is just a great feeling to be up here and to work with the guys I work with. I have never been a numbers guy -- I really couldn't tell you what my numbers are right now or where I rank. I'm more about going out every day and putting in my work.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You have talked in the past about how you pitch to contact. How do you define that?

Fister: It's a basic concept where you try and get them to hit the ball within your first three pitches. You try and limit how many balls you're throwing and you really try and allow them to hit it. Here I have a great defense and I would be foolish not to utilize it.

MLBPLAYERS.com: The Mariners do have a number of great defenders. Is there a teammate who really sticks out in your mind when you do think defense?

Fister: When Jack Wilson is out there, he's a tremendous shortstop. He not only helps me when he's behind me but he will also come up and talk to me. He'll offer some tips on the next batter or he'll just calm me down. He's been a great mentor for me since Day One. You also have guys like Chone Figgins, another guy who puts in a lot of time and effort. There are just so many great defensive players here in our infield and in our outfield.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it true that you have not 'shaken off' a single pitch from your catcher Rob Johnson this season?

Fister: I think I have shaken him off only one time. That shows that we are really on the same page. We discuss a lot of things before starts, and we both really understand how the game works. We have a good back-and-forth with one another and I really like throwing to him.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You have had quality starts in eight of your last nine efforts. How do you approach each start?

Fister: I approach each start by giving it my all each and every time out. That's my mentality. Really it's a matter of going back to that pitching to contact theme. If I can get a lot of hitters out early in the count, that increases my chances of going late in a game. For me it is about conserving pitches.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You appear to have a relatively slow delivery. Is that how you describe it?

Fister: Yeah. It is sort of rhythmic, a lot of thought put into the tempo. It is about keeping everything in sync. A lot of people say it's sort of harder for a big guy to not let things fly into so many different directions, so it's something that I'm conscious of.

MLBPLAYERS.com: At 6-8, can you talk about how you use your height to your advantage?

Fister: Going into bullpens and taking it out to the mound, I really try and focus on my location, on hitting my spots. It's about making sure everything is in sync and a lot of that work is with our pitching coach Rick Adair. I don't try and make my height translate into velocity. It is more about where I am throwing the ball.

MLBPLAYERS.com: Have you pitched with or had lengthy discussions with another pitcher who is similar to your size?

Fister: In the offseason, I've talked a lot with Brian Fuentes of the Angels. We work out together and really I try and use the knowledge and insight that I've gotten from him.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You also used your size well in high school as you were a standout basketball. With the upcoming NBA Finals set between the Celtics and Lakers, who do you think will win?

Fister: I grew up watching the game and not have a real favorite team. But I guess I would sort of like to see the Celtics take it.

MLBPLAYERS.com: You are from Northern California and, of course, you play your home games in the Pacific Northwest How do you like playing so close to home?

Fister: It is a great convenience. It is only a 12-hour drive from home and my parents have made the drive a few times. It's great for me to have those familiar faces in the stands.

MLBPLAYERS.com: And with your team, obviously, not where it wants to be in the standings right now, do you think that the talent is here it is only a matter of time before things turn around?

Fister: This is not where we want to be right now but I think we have a lot of upside. I think that is a tremendous attribute for us and everybody still has their confidence and that is where we need it to be.

Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.