Before his club’s 2-1 walk-off win over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, Washington Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said he would announce Wednesday’s starting pitcher after the game. But when asked for the choice postgame, Martinez said the team still hadn’t made a decision.
“To be announced tomorrow,” Martinez said. “Don’t know yet. Really don’t know.”
The Nationals need a spot starter Wednesday because Saturday’s doubleheader threw off their starting rotation. Tanner Roark is the most rested pitcher of the five-man group, but he started the first game Saturday and he would only have three days of rest Wednesday — one fewer than normal.
Washington isn’t about to jump on the latest trend of piecing innings together with a string of relievers, making the choice for the assignment obvious. Erick Fedde is the Nationals’ top pitching prospect and best starter with options remaining in their minor league system. Most importantly, the right-hander hasn’t pitched since Friday, putting him on turn Wednesday on regular rest.
If he is the choice, the Nationals would need to option or designate a player for assignment to make room for him on the active roster. It would be the fourth career major league start for the 25-year-old Las Vegas native, who first appeared in the majors last season and started three games. Fedde, the team’s first-round pick in the 2014 draft, pitched to a 9.39 ERA, struck out 15 and walked eight in 15 1/3 innings. Fedde was then shut down in early September after dealing with forearm discomfort in his final outing.
It was an ominous conclusion for a pitcher three years removed from Tommy John surgery. But Fedde didn’t display any ill effects during spring training and proceeded into the season normally. He would arrive in Washington coming off his best start in 2018, in which he allowed an unearned run in a season-high 6 2/3 innings. Before that, he had surrendered five runs in three consecutive starts. All but two of his eight starts for Syracuse lasted exactly five innings.
Fedde would be the seventh pitcher to start a game for the club with the second-best rotation ERA in baseball. The number, inflated by the departed A.J. Cole’s 12.00 ERA in two starts, stood at 2.96 entering Tuesday. Jeremy Hellickson, Cole’s replacement, then dropped it further to 2.93 by giving up one run in 5 1/3 innings in the Nationals’ win before exiting with a blister problem. Hellickson’s performance extended Nationals starters’ streak of allowing three or fewer earned runs to 22 straight starts. It’s the longest streak in the majors since Chicago Cubs starters went 23 games in 2016.
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