UNLV baseball coach Tim Chambers managed the Nationals’ 2014 first round selection right-hander Erick Fedde for three seasons. He had nothing but the highest of praise for the No. 18 selection in Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft.
“The Nats couldn’t have gotten a better kid and a better worker,” Chambers said. “I’ve never had one like him. I want you to know that. He was with me for three years. I never told him to run, never told to throw his pen, never told him to do his bands, I never told him to do anything. He just did. He is a special player.”
Chambers said Fedde throws three primary pitches. A 92-96 mph fastball, slider and a changeup.
Chambers said he remembered when they needed to find a way to get Fedde to get better at his changeup, to fully commit to using it and being confident that it could get guys out.
“The changeup put him over the top this year because (at one time in his development) he refused to throw it,” Chambers said.
So the coaching staff mandated Fedde could only throw the fastball and the changeup as a sophomore.
“He started developing that pitch and it developed,” Chambers said. “He drops down on occasion on the changeup and slider, he will go side arm on both of those.”
Fedde’s season came to an end in a scheduled late season game against San Diego State.
“He said, ‘I’m pitching,’” Chambers said. “I said OK. He fought with his dad that night. I called his dad and I said I can’t do it. I don’t want to see him walk off the mound. So I am not going to pitch him. His dad said ‘OK. I am on my way right now. We’ll take him to get an MRI tomorrow.’ “
Chambers said Fedde originally hurt his elbow playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod league in the Summer of 2013.
When Fedde got the call to pitch for Team USA, he said emphatically “yes,” even though his elbow was not 100 percent.
“He really hurt his elbow in the Cape last year,” Chambers said. “When he made the Team USA he was hurt. He said ‘I was hurt when I went to Team USA. I am going to pitch with USA on my chest. I am going to go pitch.’ “
UNLV baseball decided to shut Fedde down in the fall. He didn’t pitch again until January.
Fedde underwent Tommy John surgery June 3, but Chambers said the procedure was a little bit unusual compared to other similar surgeries.
“I don’t know if you heard of this before, but they left the ulnar collateral ligament (in there,) they left it in, cause it wasn’t severed, and they put the new one (in) and tied them both together,” Chambers said. “I have never heard that. They didn’t take it out, they tied it to the new one.”
Chambers remembers when first round selection Fedde and current Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper were teammates at Las Vegas High School. Ironically, Chambers also coached Harper for one season when he was coaching at the College of Southern Nevada.
“What’s the chances Bryce and Erick were teammates (and the) same age in high school?” Chambers asked. “They were both sophomores together in high school. It’s kind of freaky. That doesn’t happen too often.”
Chambers said Harper played shortstop and catcher in high school.
Fedde arrived at UNLV and weighed 155 pounds. According to Chambers, today he weighs 185 pounds.
Chambers said Fedde appears to be a mild-mannered and somewhat quiet guy off the field. But try to take the baseball from him late in a game. Big mistake.
“He is just Johnny Mellowcat, does his work and does his thing, and leave me alone,” Chambers said.
“In three years, every single time I took him out he said, ‘No. Leave me alone, I’m good, I’m good.’
“He works real fast, which people will really love. The next pitch is coming in eight to 10 seconds unless the umpire stops him.”
Fedde was an accomplished soccer player in high school, guiding his team to a state title. Fedde was named the Nevada State Athlete of the Year during his senior year.
Chambers said Fedde still employs some of his supreme soccer skills on a baseball diamond, and not with a soccer ball, but a baseball.
“When he warms up for a game, he dribbles a baseball from foul pole to foul pole with his feet while he is running,” Chambers said. “He dribbles it (yet) it never touches the ground. Kick, kick, kick, it never touches the ground. It’s amazing, wait ‘til you see it.
“He is a tremendous athlete. He is a really good defender. If you bunt, the third or first baseman aren’t getting it, he’s getting it. He is a really good athlete.”
Chambers also believes that because Fedde is such a hard worker, he will be able to accelerate his recovery.
“They say 12 to 18 months (rehab),” Chambers said of Fedde’s Tommy John recovery schedule. “I say he will be on the mound in 10 or 11 months. In three years, I have never told him anything to do. Hardest worker I have ever seen in my life.”
The Nationals have a plan that works for Tommy John recovery, and in 12 months, if Fedde is ready, he could report to the rookie-level Auburn Doubledays.
But whatever happens from now on, Chambers said Fedde has earned this right. And Chambers believes Fedde can be a top-flight pitcher for the Nationals.
“He is getting everything he deserves,” Chambers said. “The guy sold out for me.”