Austin Voth earned the fifth spot in the Washington Nationals’ rotation with strong showings in both Spring Training 1.0 and 2.0, and Erick Fedde, who battled Voth for the fifth spot took a relief role as the long man in the bullpen when the 2020 campaign got underway in July.
Fedde was pressed into action as a starter right away, however, with Stephen Strasburg not able to go in his planned debut in the second game on the schedule. Then Fedde took over for Max Scherzer after a hamstring injury took him the Nationals’ ace off the mound in another outing, and now that it appears Strasburg’s done for the year with surgery planned for later this coming week, to try to clear up what’s now been diagnosed as carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand, Fedde, the Nationals’ 2014 1st Round pick is going to return to the rotation again.
Voth and Fedde now figure to be important parts of the big league staff, and how they are able to progress in their development could play an important role in what the Nationals do this season, and if they have to look for rotation help with the late-August trade deadline just a week-plus away.
“I spoke to both of them before this even started and they understand,” Davey Martinez told reporters after announcing on Saturday afternoon that Strasburg was headed for surgery.
“Especially a lot with — Voth knew right away he was going to be our fifth starter, and he’s going to get the opportunity to start every five days.
“With Fedde, it was a different situations, and I constantly talk to Fedde and honestly let him know how good he’s really doing and how I appreciate the fact that he accepted his role.
“Now he’s going to have a different role. He’s going to be in the rotation, and I talked to him about that, and I said, ‘Nothing changes for you. You just go out there every five days, stay on your routine and keep throwing the ball the way you’re throwing. So he’s sad that Strasburg is hurt, but then he knows that he gets an opportunity to go in there and start, and hopefully he does well.”
What once looked like a strength for the defending World Series champs is now a serious question mark going forward, with Scherzer battling himself early, Strasburg out till 2021, and starter Joe Ross sitting out this season after opting out of playing in a pandemic.
Martinez talked about reacting to the issues that have hit the club early in the schedule, and how they’ve attempted to adjust on the fly as issues arise.
“You try not to prepare yourself for the worst,” he said, “but you always got to keep in mind that regardless of a [60-game] season, it’s still a season, so guys are going to go down, this is a good thing about [GM Mike] Rizzo and his core guys, of keeping guys ready and having guys accessible.
“Guys that we feel like can help us along the way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt, believe me, it’s not a good feeling.
“I feel for these guys when they do go down, especially when they go down for a long period of time, because it’s frustrating to a player.
“I’ve been there, I understand. They prepare themselves to come back and help your team win and then all of a sudden that’s taken away from them for a while. But with that being said, having to pull the guys that we have, we feel confident that these guys can come up here and help us. You’ve seen a lot of different guys. We talked about a Luis García, you talk about [Dakota] Bacus, [Kyle] Finnegan stepping in, all these guys, and hopefully Wil Crowe will do the same thing today, but these guys have done well for us right now in this short season, so I hope they continue to do well. I see some really good things out of all these guys and I just hope that they continue to have success like they have been.”
With the injuries to their starters, however, and with Starlin Castro (broken wrist) out for the rest of the season, will the Nationals look elsewhere when the 2020 Trade Deadline arrives at the end of the month (August 31st)?
Rizzo talked to 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this week about how the club will try to approach the deadline in this odd season.
“The trade deadline is going to be very, very unique,” Rizzo said.
“It’s for a very small amount of games you’re going to get the player at the trade deadline.
“Usually when you get it July 31st, you get it through August, through September, and the playoffs.
“Now you’re going to get them through September and the playoff run, so it’s going to be interesting to me to see how much action there really is. To give away a good prospect or two for a rental player this year for about 25-27 games in the regular season to get you in the playoffs and then for the playoff tournament, is something that’s going to be unique to the process. How many prospects can you give up for that short period of time for a rental player? So, we’re going to evaluate where we’re at with the ballclub and our needs, and I think it will be determined by the health of players, where our holes are and what are needs are, but the health of Howie Kendrick and those types of guys are something that would really dictate how we attack this thing.”
“To go back to our starting pitching, our starting pitching in the minor leagues is one of our depth spots.
“Down in Fredericksburg alone we’ve got four or five young, hungry starters that we would not feel uncomfortable going reaching and grabbing those guys and bringing them to the big leagues.”
So will Rizzo deal at the deadline, or stick with the roster the Nationals have assembled for the defense of their World Series championship?