Strong effort vs. Astros may earn Fedde a longer look

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Erick Fedde may have earned himself a longer look from the new Nationals coaching staff.

The right-hander held his own against an Astros lineup top-heavy with regulars, throwing three innings of two-hit, one-run ball in a 2-2 nine-inning tie on Saturday.

“I find it to be exciting, a fun test,” said Fedde, who walked two and struck out three. “It’s still spring training - guys might not be where they are in season and they’re getting their work in. Either way, it’s fun to compete against the best.”

Erick-Fedde-throw-red-spring-sidebar.jpgFedde’s performance in his second spring start and fourth outing left manager Davey Martinez impressed.

“It was good to see him face those kind of hitters,” Martinez said. “What I look for is he was very comfortable. He didn’t look rattled. He was trying to attack them all, and that was good to see.”

The Nationals seem to have settled on righty A.J. Cole for the fifth spot in their starting rotation. But another couple of strong outings by Fedde could force them to at least consider an alternative.

“I’ll talk to Lilly (pitching coach Derek Lilliquist), but I definitely think he’ll get at least one, maybe two more starts here,” Martinez said. “I like to see him start the games as opposed to come in because that’s what we want him to do.”

Two of Fedde’s punchouts came against accomplished Astros hitters. He got Carlos Correa looking at a 96 mph fastball to end the first and Evan Gattis swinging at 97 mph heat an inning later. Fedde also flashed a nice pickoff move, nabbing George Springer after a leadoff single in the Astros first.

In all, only 29 of Fedde’s 50 pitches found the strike zone, but he was happy with the improvement in his breaking stuff.

“My last couple outings, my breaking balls haven’t been too sharp, and today, a lot more happy with it,” he said. “Something I was definitely working on. I threw more sliders today. I only threw one curveball. The slider, been working on it because last year it wasn’t great and early this year it hasn’t been too great.”

The slider continues to be a work in progress.

“In pitching lingo, I’ve been casting it to where it’s breaking not the way I want it to and staying up more,” Fedde explained. “Today the velo was better, the action was better. For me, it’s also about the swings, and today I thought there was a lot of not-so-great swings put on it.”

A good outing can build confidence in a young pitcher, and Fedde - the Nationals’ top pitching prospect - is no exception.

“I felt pretty good about my stuff today,” he said. “I thought a lot of my pitches were better than they’ve been in spring training. I was real happy with my off-speed today. Just hoping to keep the zeros on the board.”

Mostly, Fedde is happy to be pitching with health issues behind him. Last season ended when the Nationals shut him down with a right forearm flexor strain, more as a precaution than anything else.

But in lowering his ERA to 3.00 in the Grapefruit League, Fedde said he feels better than ever.

“I feel great right now,” he said. “Healthy, fresh. For sure, I’m feeling the best me.”

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