A Sunday doubleheader, with the league’s second-most productive lineup on the other side of the field? That’s not exactly putting a guy in the best possible position to succeed.
“If we had to pick a first time out for him, we probably wouldn’t have picked Colorado,” manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s just how it was.”
Yes, the Nationals didn’t have a whole lot of choice here. When Stephen Strasburg needed to be placed on the 10-day disabled list with a nerve impingement in his right elbow, Fedde was the logical choice to be called up from Triple-A Syracuse to take his place. And when Friday night’s series opener against the Rockies was rained out, somebody needed to start today’s doubleheader opener.
That somebody was Fedde, who wound up surrendering seven runs (five earned) in four innings, sending the Nationals on their way to a 10-6 loss.
It was by no means a quality performance from the organization’s top prospect. At the same time, the Nationals walked away moderately encouraged. Not by the final pitching line, but by the way Fedde looked and the way he handled a tough situation.
“I think what he gave us was better than what the results were,” Baker said.
That’s not an unfair assessment. There were several encouraging aspects of Fedde’s outing...
* He threw strikes, 57 of his 87 total pitches. And he got ahead in the count, firing first-pitch strikes to the first nine batters he faced and 18 of the 23 batters he faced overall.
* He displayed quality stuff, including two different types of fastballs (a four-seamer that cut and a two-seamer that sank) that allowed him to strike out the side in the top of the second.
* He displayed poise to limit damage on multiple occasions, twice exchanging a run for a double-play grounder.
“I mean, he seemed sort of unfazed by the situations,” Baker said. “Especially when he had bases loaded, nobody out and he threw up a double play.”
Which isn’t to say there aren’t things Fedde can learn from this start and things he’ll need to prove he can do when he next gets the opportunity to pitch at this level. Above all else, he’ll have to learn how to put away big league hitters with two strikes, something that proved awfully difficult this afternoon. Six of the 10 hits the Rockies recorded off him came with two strikes, and he twice failed to retire a batter after getting ahead 0-2 in the count.
“Those guys are the best in the world for a reason,” Fedde said. “And it’s something I think I can do a better job at, executing two-strike pitches. It was something that hurt me today.”
The organization’s top-ranked prospect and first-round pick in the 2014 draft, Fedde’s debut had been anticipated for some time. The Nationals, in an attempt both to hold his workload down and prepare him for the possibility of pitching in the bullpen later this season, had him spend two months as a reliever at Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, but he did recently return to a starting role.
Informed earlier this week he would be called up, Fedde was able to get a horde of family members and friends from his hometown of Las Vegas and other locales to D.C. for today’s game. He admitted taking a moment in his pregame preparation to soak in the scene.
“I was, for sure, a little nervous,” he said. “Once you get into the ‘pen, you can see the whole stadium. It was pretty exciting. Once I got out (to the mound), it seemed to go pretty quickly. But it was enjoyable just getting ready for the game.”
What happens now? Fedde packed enough clothes to join the Nationals on their trip to Miami and Chicago this week. His next turn in the rotation would come next weekend at Wrigley Field, but the doubleheader, an off-day Thursday and Strasburg’s potential return from the disabled list would allow the Nats to avoid having him start a game on the trip.
Perhaps he appears out of the bullpen. Perhaps he returns to Syracuse. Whatever the case, the Nationals saw enough this afternoon to want to see more of Fedde.
“It was a tough assignment,” Baker said. “I think he’ll be better next time.”