FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Nationals don’t make many long spring training road trips anymore, not since relocating headquarters from remote Viera to more accessible West Palm Beach. So the few 2 1/2-hour bus rides they still have on the schedule each spring tend to elicit more substantial groans from everyone involved.
Not everyone, though, was upset to ride the bus all the way across the state to Fort Myers for Thursday’s game with the Twins. Erick Fedde viewed it as a golden opportunity.
“I know a lot of guys were probably dreading the Fort Myers trip, but when I heard I got the start I was ecstatic,” the right-hander said. “To me, it’s my natural element. It’s great to do that rather than come in out of the pen.”
Fedde has been a starter his entire professional career to date, and he’ll continue to be a starter this season, most likely opening with Triple-A Fresno. But because the Nationals already have five veteran starters in their rotation, all of Fedde’s pitching assignments to date had been in relief.
The 26-year-old, though, can thank the schedule makers and Aníbal Sánchez’s decision to stay back in West Palm Beach and face minor leaguers, for his first starting opportunity of the spring Thursday. And he made the most of the situation, allowing one run and two hits over three innings in his best spring performance to date.
Fedde couldn’t help but view that as a positive development.
“Oh, definitely,” he said. “Today I was trying to implement a lot of things we were working on. It’s nice to see pretty good results.”
Among the things the Nationals wanted Fedde to try to implement: More first-pitch strikes, and minimized damage if and when he got into trouble. Perhaps the best evidence he succeeded was the fact he allowed one baserunner in each of his three innings but no more than that.
“I told him: ‘The big thing for you is when you do get a guy on first, stay out of the big innings,’” manager Davey Martinez said. “I could tell that he really focused on just getting the next guy out. Once the guy’s on base, there ain’t nothing you can do about it, so just don’t worry about it. Just get to the next hitter and get to the next pitch.”
The Nationals may not be able to afford to give Fedde another major league start this spring, but Martinez reiterated he’ll continue to pitch multiple innings, even if it’s out of the bullpen. And the organization’s view of the 2014 first-round pick hasn’t changed: He will be a regular starter for them at some point.
Thursday’s outing only reinforced that belief.
“If he continues to do that, whether it’s March 28 or somewhere down the road, he’s going to pitch in the big leagues and help us,” Martinez said.