Cole, not Fedde, to start series opener in Miami

MILWAUKEE - The Nationals will give their starting pitchers an extra day of rest this week, summoning a young right-hander to pitch tonight’s series opener against the Marlins in Miami. Just not the young right-hander most expected.

A.J.-Cole-throwing-gray-sidebar.jpgA.J. Cole will be on the mound tonight at Marlins Park, not Erick Fedde, manager Dusty Baker revealed following Sunday’s 7-2 loss to the Brewers.

Baker didn’t offer up any more expansive explanation for the decision, but it does suggest the organization has some questions about Fedde’s physical state as he nears the end of his season.

Fedde seemed like the logical choice to make the spot start, considering he last pitched Aug. 27 for the Nationals in the opener of their Sunday doubleheader against the Mets, and considering he was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday once rosters were allowed to expand.

Cole, meanwhile, was optioned to Syracuse on that same Aug. 27 date, which means he’s ineligible to be recalled to the majors until Wednesday. The only exceptions to the 10-day demotion rule: If he’s replacing a fellow pitcher who is going on the disabled list or bereavement list.

The Nationals wouldn’t reveal what transaction will be made to allow Cole to be called up, except to say the move would be announced today. That move doesn’t, however, appear to involved Max Scherzer.

Scherzer, who took a line drive off his left calf in the first inning Saturday night at Miller Park and wound up getting pulled after only five innings and 75 pitches, was still limping a bit around the clubhouse Sunday. But the right-hander expressed confidence after Saturday’s game he would be fine to make his next start, and Baker suggested the same after Sunday’s game.

“Max, he’s doing fine,” the manager said. “He said he’s just a little sore, which is to be expected. But Max is doing fine. Our medical staff is one of the best, and they’re icing it, treating it, rubbing it, everything. I feel Max will be ready for his next start.”

Fedde, meanwhile, was not seen in the Nationals clubhouse before Sunday’s game, and his locker was already cleaned out minutes after the game ended.

The organization’s top prospect notably displayed diminished velocity in his last start, with his average fastball dropping from 94 mph to 91 mph. At minimum, the Nationals have decided to give him a little time off before putting him back on the mound.

The club could simply decide to shut Fedde down for the season now. He has thrown a total of 105 2/3 innings between Washington, Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. That actually falls short of his 2016 minor league total of 121 innings, but he has appeared in considerably more games this season (32 vs. 23) because of the two months he spent in the minors pitching as a reliever.

Fedde had Tommy John surgery in June 2014, just days before the Nationals made him their first-round pick out of UNLV.

Cole will be making his sixth big league start of the season, his third against the Marlins. He’s 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA in the previous five starts and went 4-8 with a 5.88 ERA in 18 starts for Syracuse this season.

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