Davey Martinez liked what he saw from Erick Fedde in an appearance out of the bullpen in a four-inning outing against the San Diego Padres on April 28th in which the 26-year-old, 2014 1st Round pick worked around two singles and a walk, and threw just 49 pitches (34 strikes) to the 13 batters he faced, striking out three.
What was working for Fedde? And what did they have him working on in the minor leagues as he waited for another big league opportunity?
“Strike one,” Martinez explained. “We talked about him throwing strike one, and working on his tempo. If you noticed his tempo was really quick, and he did that today and it was awesome, just watching him throw strike one and get ahead of hitters and bury his pitches was phenomenal.”
Apparently the Nationals’ skipper wasn’t the only one who liked what they saw from Fedde in his first appearance in the majors as a reliever, because a decision was made to have the right-hander return to Double-A Harrisburg and work out of the bullpen.
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty last week, that at that point they hadn’t decided whether to keep Fedde starting as depth for the rotation, or move him into a relief role so he could potentially help out with what’s been the biggest problem area of several for the big league club early this season.
“We’ve never been afraid to move guys to the big leagues in different roles and different positions and different times, no matter what their chronological age shows,” Rizzo said. “We’re going to put our best club on the field, and if Fedde is one of our best 12 or 13 pitchers that is going to help us win a championship, then we are going to consider it.
“But we always consider him as a front-line starting pitching prospect and a guy that we’re going to count on … in the future to be a starter.”
On Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, Martinez confirmed the decision to have Fedde work in relief at Double-A.
“We’re going to move him to the bullpen, and get him ready and kind of build him up,” the second-year skipper said, noting that the Nationals had already done something similar in their decision to use Joe Ross as a reliever.
“We want him to get comfortable just coming out of the bullpen — first before we decide where we’re going to use him, but he has to get comfortable. It’s a different routine. Even though I tried to tell Joe, ‘Hey, we’re going to get you up early and prepare you like you’re starting the game,’ but it is different.
“They’re coming in in different roles, so we want to get Fedde comfortable doing it and then we’ll go from there.”
Ross and Fedde began the year as candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation, but now both are going to potentially end up in the pen because that’s where the need is in the majors. It is not, Martinez reiterated, a sign of what the future holds for them?
“We still believe in them as being future starters for us, but right now it’s kind of a necessity where we’re at,” Martinez said.
“Our bullpen’s shaping up fairly well right now, but if somebody goes down or something, we feel like Fedde can come up here and help us in that role.”
If there was a need in the rotation going forward though? Would the Nationals then move Ross or Fedde back into a starting role? If not, who are the top starters in the system they would/should call upon if/when there is a need?