The team not only needed a win to take the series in Arizona, but Stephen Strasburg pitched well enough in well enough in rehab to return from the Injured List.
Starting for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, Strasburg went 4 1⁄3 innings, allowing two hits and two walks, with six strikeouts. He left the game with a 1-0 lead.
“He felt good. His shoulder felt good, there was no issues,” said Martinez after the finale in Chase Field.
“He was a little erratic the first inning, but he settled down a little bit and threw the ball better.”
Martinez acknowledged beforehand that if Fedde pitched well, he is considering using a six-man rotation to take advantage of the team’s deep starting pitching.
“We’re thinking about it. We talked about it earlier with Joe [Ross] and Stras not pitching at all last year, limiting their innings, especially early this year,“ said Martinez.
Fedde responded with the best start of his five-year major league career, allowing just three hits and two walks in seven shutout innings, striking out four.
“I see Stras in the clubhouse all the time, I know he’s getting close,” said Fedde after the game. “I don’t know. I’ve been in this spot so often it’s almost something I don’t think about anymore, just because I’ve learned the more you think about it it still doesn’t matter at all.”
“My job is to go out there and pitch well, and today I added something to my resume about why I should still be in the rotation.”
“He threw the ball really well,” his manager said afterward. “I think that’s probably the best I’ve seen him throw. He had good command of all his pitches, worked the zone really well, so he kept us in the game, in a 0-0 game, he did well.
“His command was good. He was pounding the strike one, keeping the ball down, made some really good pitches with all his pitches.”
The health of Strasburg and Ross will be the manager’s major concern moving forward.
“Joe who didn’t pitch all year last year, and Stras, who hasn’t pitched all year and is coming off an injury,” said Martinez, ”to make sure that we take care of those guys as well.”
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll reassess and from there. I want to talk to him probably tomorrow and really hone in and see how he really felt.”
So now Martinez will either find a way to make Fedde and Strasburg part of a six-man rotation or send Fedde to the bullpen.
And while he hedged his bets after the game Sunday, Martinez may already have tipped his hand.
“The biggest thing is, I don’t want Fedde to get hurt by moving him back and forth,” Martinez said in the pregame media session.
“We’ll have to sit down and make a really good decision. Fedde has done great as a starter, I really believe that he can help us in the bullpen whether it’s a one or two inning stint, so we just have to take a look at all this stuff when it comes up.”
Teams have used six-man rotations in the past, to varying degrees of success, but it has not caught on as a widespread practice.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto reasoned before the season that it allows pitchers to throw two bullpen sessions between each start instead of the customary one.
This allows pitchers to spend more time with a coach, developing grips and mechanics.
Bot what does a six-man rotation look like for the Nationals, a team with a veteran-laden rotation?
Among Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester, Joe Ross, and Fedde the team has three hard-throwing veterans, and three younger pitchers with breaking-ball arsenals.
Martinez also acknowledged before the game that Scherzer will likely still get the ball every fifth day, as he’s accustomed.
A three-time Cy Young award winner should get that prerogative.
“I want to keep Scherzer, as long as he’s feeling well, keep him on his regular schedule,” Martinez said.
“Maybe Corbin could use another day, maybe Jon Lester could use a day, so we’ll keep that in mind and then we’ll go from there.”
Regardless of how Martinez maps out his rotation in the coming months, he and Fedde have both learned a lot since Fedde came into Spring Training vying for the final rotation spot.
“He understands who he is,” said Martinez. “He knows he’s a sinker ball pitcher, he throws a good cutter, and he mixes all his pitches in. And he understand that he needs to throw the ball down.”
“He’s done that, and [Pitching coach Jim] Hickey has done a great job with him as well, about understanding what he can do when he applies himself to that.”
The manager’s biggest hope for Fedde is that he learns to pitch out of trouble.
‘He’s matured a lot. He doesn’t let things frustrate him much. My big thing with him is not to let the game slip away. If he walks somebody in the first at bat, focus on the next at bat and don’t worry about it, and stay away from the big innings.”
Fedde is happy with his progress this season.
“I think I had that first start of the year was really bumpy, but after that I think I have put a lot of consistent starts together and I’m happy with what I’ve put together for them to look at.”