Notes: Fedde, bullpen decisions, Robles

February 28th, 2021

will get the nod on Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals when the Nationals open Spring Training games at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.

The 28-year-old right-hander is in the mix with Joe Ross and Austin Voth for the vacant fifth starting spot. Fedde will be capped at 30 pitches, with an emphasis on throwing strike one.

Last season, Fedde also was a candidate to be the fifth starter. After the job went to Voth, he was poised to be a long man out of the bullpen before he was needed to step in as a starter in place of an injured Stephen Strasburg. Fedde went 2-4 with a 4.29 ERA in 11 appearances (eight starts).

“He’s ready to go, so we’re going to get him out there,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He looks good.”

The Nationals are being mindful of injuries and conditioning as they determine their starters this spring. Strasburg only pitched five innings last season, Ross elected not to play in 2020 and Max Scherzer is recovering from a left ankle sprain.

“We want to make sure that these guys are built up and ready to go,” Martinez said.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV.

Assessing the 'pen

With an abundance of depth, the Nationals’ bullpen is starting to take shape. Martinez has the luxury of choosing between southpaw and righties and in closer situations. While he has the option to take a by-committee approach during the season, Hand could be the consistent go-to.

“[He’s] very quiet, but [he] works hard, [he] wants to just help the team win,” Martinez said. “In a perfect world, he’ll be our closer.”

Hand, who led all of baseball with 16 saves last season for the Indians, signed with the Nats in January. He has expressed his willingness to pitch any inning late in the game.

“[It’s] important to be able to have guys that don't have egos, that are willing to take the ball whatever situation it is,” Hand said. “Throughout the course of the year, there's going to be stretches where guys are struggling, or there's always going to be somebody else that's going to need to pick up the slack and help each other out.”

Martinez also has an idea of how 27-year-old right-hander could be best utilized in the Nationals system. Rodriguez has started in 16 of his 24 Major League appearances (including eight starts for Washington in 2018), but Martinez sees him as a reliever.

“I feel like he’d fit in our bullpen,” Martinez said. “[He] could be a five-out guy, two-inning guy. We definitely love his stuff, for sure.”

In two seasons in the big leagues, Rodriguez is 3-7 with a 5.68 ERA in 82 1/3 innings as a starter and 1-1 with a 2.76 ERA over 16 1/3 frames as a reliever.

Goals for a more agile Robles

When ’ agility was impacted by gaining 15 pounds of muscle last season, there was a lot of attention paid to how it affected his defensive production. But there are other areas in which the 2019 Gold Glove Award finalist would like to improve this year.

Robles said on Friday he would like to work on his baserunning. In 2019, he ranked fifth in the National League with a career-high 28 stolen bases, but he also was second in the NL in times caught stealing (nine). Last season, Robles stole four bases and was caught once. His offseason weight loss and conditioning should help with his quickness. His sprint speed dipped from 29.3 to 28 feet per second in '20.