There was a stretch, earlier this season, when it looked like Erick Fedde had turned a corner in his career, with the Washington Nationals’ 2014 1st Round pick putting together a string of 21-straight scoreless innings over five appearances. There was even an IL stint following his positive test for COVID-19 in the middle of that run, but the 28-year-old righty went into quarantine and picked up where he left off upon returning to the Nats’ rotation, with two of his scoreless outings in that run coming after he was out.
Then he struggled in an outing against the Philadelphia Phillies in which his scoreless inning streak ended, giving up five six hits, three walks, and five earned runs in a four-inning outing after which he was IL’d with an oblique issue.
In four starts that followed his run of scoreless outings, Fedde gave up 25 hits, 11 walks, and 20 runs (all earned) in 14 2⁄3 IP, the last of them before he faced the Miami Marlins last night, a 1 1⁄3-inning against the San Diego Padres in which he gave up three hits, four walks, and six earned runs before he was pulled, having thrown 57 pitches to 11 batters.
The difference during that impressive stretch and as he struggled recently?
“Yeah, I think, I mean, starting off innings the right way,” Fedde said after the outing against the Padres. “I think right now, just even the last two games, it feels like there’s been guys on base constantly. So I guess maybe it’s just being effective with nobody on base early in the innings. And I don’t know, I just — being more aggressive with my offspeed early in the count and just getting more strikes. I think at that point I was just throwing everything with so much confidence, right at the heart of the plate, and it’s a lot easier to pitch in better counts, and I think I just need to get back to that.”
“I think most of it is falling behind, throwing a lot of pitches, using a lot of pitches to get a hitter out,” Fedde’s manager, Davey Martinez, said before the righty faced Miami’s Marlins.
“I think he needs today to just know what he’s really good at, and that’s attacking the strike zone, and keeping the ball down. We always, often, tell him that for me he’s a ground ball pitcher, and when the ball is down you see a lot of balls on the ground, so just getting the ball down and utilizing all his pitches in the strike zone, not throwing them more for chase, but throw them in the strike zone. His balls move everywhere, he’s tough to hit, so hopefully today he goes out there and he attacks the strike zone and gets ahead of hitters and puts them away early.”
Getting back some of the swagger he had on the mound when he was doing well wouldn’t hurt either.
“Yeah, I think it’s more about — honestly, it’s about him catching up,” Martinez said when he was asked about the confidence Fedde exuded during his stretch of success, but those two IL stints slowed his momentum some.
“The COVID thing, the oblique thing,” Martinez said, “he felt a lot better his last outing as far as staying in his legs a little bit more, so I’m hoping that — he had a good bullpen the other day, so I’m hoping that he’s over that this start here and you’ll see the guy that we saw earlier this year, and like I said attacking the strike zone and giving us the innings we need.”
Fedde gave the Nationals six innings in which he allowed just four hits and one unearned run, walking just one batter and strikeout out four while inducing nine ground ball outs.
He got himself into some trouble in the fourth when a leadoff double, ROE, and a walk in the first three at bats loaded the bases, but the only run he allowed scored on a double play ball off of Joe Panik’s bat, and the Nationals’ starter limited the damage to just the one run when Sandy León grounded out to end the inning.
Fedde recorded his first three Ks when he struck out the side in the fifth, and he stranded a two-out double in the sixth in his final inning of work in what ended up a 3-1 loss in extras.
Erick Fedde’s Line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 84 P, 52 S, 9/3 GO/FO.
“He was throwing strikes,” Martinez said after the loss.
“He was pounding the strike zone. His fastball location was good. He fell behind a couple times, but he was able to come back and throw strikes.
“He looked good. I watched him, his mechanics were great, he stayed in his legs a little better. It’s a comment that even he made when he came out.
“He felt like his legs were underneath him, and that’s good.”
An outing after throwing 57 pitches in 1 1⁄3 IP, Fedde went six on 84 pitches, so what was different this time out?
“Probably just my aggression with the fastball,” Fedde told reporters on a post game Zoom call. “I think I started out in the first inning and just went right after guys, and then just the ability — I made a few adjustments mechanically, I think I just kept myself much more under control and consistent, which helped being in the zone.”
The mechanical adjustments, Fedde said, were something that he spotted watching film in-between starts.
“Just kind of watching some film from when I was throwing really well,” Fedde explained, “... versus the last couple. Just kind of like the glide in my back legs, instead of going up, down, up, it was just more of a consistent glide down the mound.
“And it makes it a lot easier when it’s simplified like that and your head’s not moving up and down constantly.”
Getting through a good outing, Fedde said, was a relief after struggling the last few times out on the mound.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t stressing, and the last couple have been pretty awful,” he said.
“So to get that and give the team a chance to win that game, it’s nice and it gives me confidence going forward.”
As for how he was able to be so much more efficient this time?
“I think I wasn’t waiting around for chases or trying to get a ton of punch-outs,” Fedde said.
“I was more just, ‘Here’s my fastball, I dare you to do something with it.’ I got a lot of ground balls today, and I think that’s the thing that makes it most efficient.”