Long ago, before their winding paths brought them to the same major league organization, Erick Fedde and Bryce Harper grew up playing T-ball, football and then basketball together in middle school before becoming baseball teammates at Las Vegas High.
“We grew up in the same area,” Fedde said. Now, after the team selected Fedde with the 18th overall pick in Thursday’s MLB first-year player draft, the two Las Vegas kids are in the same organization, both overjoyed.
“It’s really cool, especially for our family and friends that are close with their family,” Fedde said on a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon. “Now to be a part of the same organization is pretty cool. Now our families can share the experience together.”
The Nationals picked the 21-year-old Fedde despite his injury — he had Tommy John elbow ligament replace surgery Tuesday — because they so coveted his frame, right arm, mid-90s fastball, wicked slider and overall stuff that they believed it was worth the risk. And with success in rehabbing pitchers with injured elbows, the Nationals felt confident in their ability to do the same with Fedde.
Fedde said he hurt his elbow six weeks ago while pitching for Nevada-Las Vegas. Facing New Mexico, he knew something was wrong in the seventh inning and still completed the inning. He exited with his pitch count at 119. He didn’t believe his arm was injured because he passed initial strength tests. He took two weeks off, had an MRI exam and then learned his right ulnar collateral ligament was torn.
“It was definitely a shock,” he said “It hit me pretty hard. I was pretty upset about it. A lot of people are telling me it’s been a very common procedure lately and the percentage of guys coming back is so high it’ll be okay if I just worked hard in rehab. In terms of the draft, I knew I was probably going to take a hit in how high I was going to go. I’m just ecstatic that the Nationals took me 18th and just excited to be a part of the organization.”
Pitching for Class AA Potomac on Friday night in his first rehab start as he nears a return from left shoulder inflammation, Gio Gonzalez allowed eight runs on seven hits — including a grand slam — while walking four and hitting a batter against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Despite the rough outing, Gonzalez said his shoulder feels good.
“It’s definitely a work in process going from spring training to building it up to shutting it down and then going back at it again,” said Gonzalez, who is on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year major league career. “To make the wheels go, you’ve got to crank them up and try to find where you’re at. It’s just good to know that my body feels good and my arm feels good.”
Gonzalez, who has been on the DL since May 18, said his shoulder felt “really good.” His first two innings were strong as he induced five groundouts and struck out one. But his command wavered in the third and fourth innings. All four walks were on four pitches. He gave up the grand slam in the third inning and couldn’t get out of the fourth, leaving with two outs and at 65 pitches, his predetermined limit. He threw 34 strikes.
Gonzalez used primarily fastballs and the Blue Rocks hitters pounced. such as the grand slam. He left pitches up in the zone, but Gonzalez insisted that wasn’t because of his shoulder. He was suffering from overall body fatigue, he said, after being out for so long. (He threw a simulated game Sunday and a 50-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.)
— James Wagner