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Washington Nationals news & notes: Davey Martinez on Sunday’s starter; Erick Fedde in the bullpen + more...

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Highlights from the Nationals’ media availability on Wednesday...

Espino’s Role/Sunday Starter:

Davey Martinez was asked before Wednesday’s game in Coors Field if the work that Paolo Espino did this season, first as part of Washington’s bullpen, then as part of the Nationals’ rotation, had solidified a spot for the 34-year-old right-hander on the 2022 roster. What is the message for Espino if he’s wondering what’s next?

“I tell him he did a great job,” Martinez said.

“This winter we’re going to assess everything, but he’s definitely done really well for us this year, and we’ll see what happens moving forward.”

Unfortunately for Espino, his final start of 2021 might end up being the rain-shortened, two-inning outing in Colorado, which he said would be a frustrating way to finish a big year.

“I definitely — I don’t want to end up like this,” Espino said.

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“But if that was the — if this was my last outing, I don’t get to pitch again, I’m going to — in my head it’s going to be like, either way I’m going to work hard, I’m going to prepare myself, and I’m going to do everything I can to come back next year even stronger.

“if this was my last outing, or if I get to pitch again and I do really good, either way, my offseason workout is going to be strong as possible.”

Espino said he hadn’t talked to Martinez about the possibility of a quick turnaround to start in Sunday’s season finale with the Boston Red Sox in D.C., but if he was asked to, he said, “if they want me to start and that’s a possibility, I’ll be ready for it.”

“I’m going to sit down and talk to him here in a little while and see how he feels,” Martinez said after Wednesday’s loss to the Rockies, “but if he feels okay, we might use him again, it could possibly be Sunday.

“We haven’t decided who we’re going to use yet, but it could possibly be on Sunday.”

Fedde Out of the Bullpen:

After a couple years of bouncing back and forth between the bullpen and rotation, Erick Fedde came on in relief late in Wednesday’s game with the Colorado Rockies for his first relief appearance of the 2021 campaign. What was going on there?

The Nationals’ pregame notes listed Josh Rogers and Josiah Gray as the starters for the first two games of the three-game series with the Red Sox this weekend, and Martinez, as noted above, discussed the possibility of sending Paolo Espino out in Sunday’s series finale in D.C.

With Fedde up to 132 23 IP after throwing a total of 50 13 in 2020’s 60-game COVID season, the Nationals’ brass made the decision that he’s had just about enough innings of work on the mound this year.

“Yeah, we talked about it,” Martinez explained in his post game Zoom call on Wednesday.

“He’s pitched a lot,” the manager said. “He’s got over 130 innings, you know, we go back again with the shortened season of last year of watching these guys. So what we wanted to do, we talked to him a lot about trying to throw — if he gets an inning here, or another inning this weekend, we want to see him use his changeup a lot more, and his two-seamer a lot more, instead of using so much breaking balls to lefties.

“And I thought he threw his changeup really well today, and threw his sinkers really well to the left-handed hitters.”

Miami Marlins v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Going into his final start of the season, Fedde was up to 22.4% curveballs on the season in 2021, 23.4% cutters, and 42.4% sinkers overall, with opposing hitters hitting .330 on his sinker, .229 on his cutter, and just .188 on the curve, with the 2014 1st Round pick throwing mainly those three pitches, with 10.2% changeups (.200 BAA) and a total of 1.6% four-seam fastballs (.444 BAA) as well.

In his final start of the season, Fedde, who had thrown between 37-41% curves over the previous few outings, threw curveballs for 43 of his 96 pitches, (45%), threw 24 sinkers (25%), 17 cutters (18%), eight changeups (8%), and four four-seamers (4%).

What did his manager think of Fedde’s work this season as a whole?

“We saw some growth from him,” Martinez said. “We saw some maturity from him, obviously we wanted better numbers, but we saw some good things. And moving forward, this winter we talked a lot about him getting a lot stronger, physically, and then coming back and like I said, we want him to utilize more changeups, more two-seamers vs lefties, so that’s something we’re really going to hone in on. His breaking ball is good, but when he’s throwing it that much, you lose the effect. So we want him to really focus on throwing more two-seamers, more changeups to lefties, and pound the zone with the two-seamers to righties, and then off of that he can use his breaking ball a little bit more.”

Soto Is Fine:

If you were holding your breath when Juan Soto made a leaping catch at the right field wall or fence in Coors Field on Wednesday, and then came up limping afterwards, you were not alone.

Soto waved off the team’s trainer, however, and stayed in the game, and his manager, Davey Martinez, said after the Nationals’ loss in the finale with the Rockies that the 22-year-old was fine after the momentary scare.

“He said he banged his knee, but he said he feels fine,” Martinez said.

Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It’s been a long season for everyone involved, especially after last season’s shortened run, so how is Soto holding up overall?

“It’s been a long year,” the manager added, “he plays every day, but like I said, the kid loves to play, he wants to play, and as you say, he got a walk his last at-bat, I think right now he’s just pulling off a little bit, he gets a day off tomorrow, we’ll see how he does this weekend.”

Soto wrapped up a 12 for 33 (.364/.571/.697) two-double, three-home run, 16-walk, 4-K road trip with a tough 2 for 12 (.167/.286/.167), two-single, two-walk, and two-K three-game series in Coors Field.

Soto has three more games at home this season, where he has a .301/.447/.479 line with 12 doubles and 10 home runs, after finishing the road schedule with a .333/.485/.601 line and eight doubles and 19 home runs away from the nation’s capital this season.