JUPITER, Fla. — Erick Fedde is already crunching the numbers.

He needs to keep his early-inning pitch counts down to go deeper in games. He has to throw first-pitch strikes at a higher rate. And even if he doesn’t beat out Jeremy Hellickson to be the Washington Nationals’ fifth starter, there should still be room for him in the team’s short-term plans.

“Last year I think we used 21 pitchers in the big leagues,” Fedde said Sunday after throwing two scoreless innings in a Grapefruit League victory against the St. Louis Cardinals. “If I count, I think I fit in that 21.”

Fedde is off by a few pitchers. The Nationals used 31 arms in 2018, though one was position player Mark Reynolds, and five other players threw fewer than 10 innings. Fedde is closer to the 23 pitchers who made 10 or more appearances, indicating they were actually part of the Nationals’ designs, and his point stands regardless: It takes a lot of pitchers to get through a 162-game season. He is confident he will be one of them, even if his first two dips into the majors have been unfulfilling.

Fedde made his first spring-training start of the year in the Nationals’ 12-2 win over the Cardinals. He faced seven hitters, struck out three (all with his slider) and threw 28 pitches.

“He’s fighting for the fifth starter’s spot. That’s what he’s doing right now,” Manager Dave Martinez said. “And he gets it. I told him, ‘We’ve got to keep you healthy.’ The big thing with him is his health. Other than pitching, he’s got to have a routine. He’s got to continue to work on his strengthening, his flexibility. That’s the way we keep him on the field.”

Before this winter, Fedde filled his offseason regimen mostly with stretching and rotational work. But he has often run into injury trouble — he missed most of last summer with right shoulder inflammation — and the Nationals suggested he put on weight between last season and the coming one. He added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame after going on a diet that he described as “see it, eat it” and “until the plate is empty,” entering camp at 203.

He already feels stronger and more durable, and he is trying to keep the weight on by eating catcher Spencer Kieboom’s cooking. Kieboom is Fedde’s spring-training roommate and has been flipping burgers and searing steaks on the grill since they arrived in camp. Fedde said it’s much better than what he made himself in the offseason.

And how does Fedde plan to keep his weight up while working out under the Florida sun?

Pfft. Eat,” Fedde said. “Stop sweating so much out here. It’s just one of those things that is a commitment thing. Just every day I take care of what needs to be done.”

That, he hopes, will translate to more innings and more success. Fedde’s longest outing of 2018 lasted six innings, and he topped five in just four of his 11 starts. His lengthy stay on the injured list also hurt his consistency, and that’s exactly what he will need to land a spot in the Nationals’ rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez.

Hellickson has the inside track for the fifth spot and has expressed that he did not sign with the Nationals to compete for a spot. But Martinez has insisted that Hellickson, Fedde and Joe Ross are battling to be in the Opening Day rotation. Hellickson, 31, provides the most durability and had a 3.45 ERA in 19 starts for the Nationals last season. He re-signed in early February for a one-year, major league deal worth $1.3 million with a possible $4 million in incentives. Ross, 25, missed most of 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and made three September starts. He threw two scoreless innings against the Houston Astros on Saturday night, and his load is being monitored closely.

Fedde, who turned 26 on Monday, wants to prove he can push past five innings and become a rotation staple for the Nationals. He was Washington’s top pitching prospect going into last season and will only become more expendable with age. He is far from phased out, but this season will be critical if he wants to be more than just one of the 20 or so arms needed to complete the season. He struck out Dexter Fowler, Tyler O’Neill and Yairo Munoz with his low-80s slider and used another to handcuff star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt for a first-pitch strike. It was a solid starting point.

“Really happy with my stuff,” Fedde said of the outing. “I was actually a little surprised myself. The first day, you are expecting to struggle a little or not find some stuff. But I was firing and just want to keep it right there.”

Read more on the Nationals: