Erick Fedde ran into some trouble early on in his 2021 Grapefruit League debut, giving up a leadoff single and two walks which loaded the bases before a wild pitch allowed a run to score, but he buckled down, went to a cutter when he couldn’t find the command of his sinker, and got out of the inning and outing with just the one run allowed, but 28 pitches thrown.
“Fastball command just wasn’t great today, but being able to kind of battle through it, and I made some big pitches to stop a blow-up inning, and it gives me some confidence moving forward,” Fedde said.
“I think there in the first three batters my fastball was just kind of all over the place,” Fedde explained, “so I decided, me and the catcher just started mixing [the cutter] in more, and I think we were very successful and was really happy with it.”
Fedde threw the cutter sparingly in 2020, just 16.6% of the time, relying predominantly on a sinker (43.9%) and curve (18.4%), but he said he has thought about using the cutter more in the upcoming season.
“Definitely. I think last year I saw a lot of success with it,” Fedde said, “... and it’s something I want to continue to build off of, and today it was great, and I got a lot of swings that I liked on it.”
Asked how it would play off his sinker, Fedde said it could work well.
“As a guy that throws with a lot of arm-side run, just something to make the hitters really have to decide if it’s going at them or away from them,” he explained, “... and it’s something that is going to make my other pitches a lot better, just because they have to respect both ways.”
“I think what was impressive about Fedde was, as he got into trouble in the first inning and he did not have that sinker,” pitching coach Jim Hickey said on Tuesday afternoon in a call with reporters, “... even though it was early in the spring, he turned to the cutter which was something that has been a little bit of an emphasis so far this spring.
“It’s something that we feel can get him out of trouble and it did exactly that in the one inning of work the other day.”
“What I liked,” manager Davey Martinez said, “is that he controlled himself when things got hot, and he was able to get out of the inning with out too much damage.”
As for Fedde turning to the cutter in that situation?
“His cutter is really good. I still want him to locate his sinker, his sinker is a good pitch,” the skipper said.
“But his cutter is definitely good, and we talked a lot about using it a little bit more.
“But the biggest thing for me is he’s got to work ahead of hitters. You can’t fall behind. That will come, I know it was the first outing of the [year], but he’s got to get that sinker over.”
Martinez too said he thought the cutter and sinker could work well together if Fedde is able to get sharper with both.
“Absolutely. He’s got a decent curveball too, so he was a little — he admitted it, he’s been trying to play with his sinker. When that happens, you’ve just got to make adjustments.
“You were down a lot with it, you’ve just got to get your sights up a little higher and that’s part of the game.
“It was the first game, but I was pleased with the way he settled down and got some outs for us.”
Fedde, who is in camp competing for the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation, got a quick turnaround for his second Grapefruit League start, with Martinez sending him out again Wednesday afternoon for the matchup with the Miami Marlins in West Palm Beach, FL.
“His first outing was basically kind of like his second live BP. So this will be — hopefully we can stretch him out a little bit here. Maybe go one-plus, but we’ll see what his pitch count looks like,” Martinez said.
The early returns, after Fedde arrived at camp raring to go, have been positive according to his manager.
“He was in a really good spot,” coming into camp, Martinez said. “Other than his sinker his first outing, not being able to control, it, man, his ball, as we all know, his ball moves a lot. But he’s throwing the ball well. He tweaked his mechanics a little bit, and he feels good, so we’re going to get him out there and get him on a regular schedule here soon with the rest of these guys.
“He’s getting a chance to go out there again today, like I said, he only had one live BP, his first outing was basically his second live, and now we’ll get him going and hopefully we get him up to that 30-35 pitch count and he can get through two innings.”
Fedde didn’t get off to a good start in his second outing either giving up a one-out double, walk, and a three-run homer (by Adam Duvall), on a sinker he, according to the radio call of the game, he left over the middle of the plate, 3-0. He worked around another single to get out of his only inning of work.
“We got to get him, I know he’s working on some stuff, but strike one,” Martinez said after what ended up an 8-5 loss to the Marlins. “I say that with him, he’s got to get ahead of hitters, what I do like, he’s throwing his cutter a lot more, and his cutter looks really good. We got to get him in that strike zone with his fastball. Whether it’s a two-seamer or a four-seamer, we got to get him around the plate with that fastball and work ahead of hitters.”