LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Even though he has not felt any discomfort this spring, Monday still represented a significant step for right-hander Erick Fedde. This was the first time Fedde appeared in a game since he was shut down late last September with a forearm flexor strain.
Fedde, the Nats' top pitching prospect, cleared the test during his two innings on the mound in Washington's 2-1 loss to the Braves at Champion Field. He admitted he was a bit unsettled as he gave up a run on four hits with a walk and a strikeout, but his fastball velocity was back to normal, sitting in the mid 90s, after a brief dip last season preceding his shutdown.
"[The forearm] hasn't bothered me at all, but this was the first real game action," Fedde said. "So it's nice, mentally, just to know it's good."
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Fedde described his 2017 season as up-and-down considering he made his Major League debut on July 30, but he scuffled through three starts before his velocity dipped in what turned out to be his final start. He did not require an offseason procedure, and he spent about a month rehabbing before he was able to progress with a normal offseason.
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Now Fedde enters his second Major League camp feeling much more comfortable and ready to audition for a spot in the Nationals' rotation.
"My goal for this camp is to break with the team," Fedde said, "and hopefully be a part of this rotation or wherever they need me to be. I'm going to go out there and do my thing, and I'm expecting to hopefully break with the team."
Whether the organization considers Fedde ready for the vacant fifth starter spot remains to be seen. A.J. Cole is the favorite to win the job, in a competition that includes veterans Edwin Jackson and Tommy Milone, who are in camp as non-roster invitees. Fedde, who turned 25 on Sunday, is the youngest competitor for the rotation job, and he's had the least Major League experience. With that also comes the most flexibility.
The Nationals could start Fedde in the Minors and wait to call him up until they feel he is completely ready. By contrast, Cole is out of options, and Jackson and Milone would have to take Minor League assignments to remain in the organization if they do not make the big league team.
"We haven't made those decisions yet," Nats manager Dave Martinez said prior to the game. "We'll see how Spring Training goes. Our biggest concern is that [Fedde] is healthy."
But after a taste of the Majors last season, Fedde is out to prove that the 9.39 ERA he posted in three starts was an aberration.
"I know if I get my chance up there this year," he said, " it's going to be, I think, a much different story."
Strasburg throws live batting practice
Stephen Strasburg's turn in the Nationals' rotation was scheduled for Monday, but instead of traveling to Champion Stadium, he threw a live batting-practice session at the team's complex in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Washington wanted to slot Strasburg into the rotation after Scherzer, but Strasburg wanted an extra batting-practice session before his first Grapefruit League game.
"He wanted one more touch-and-feel kind of outing, so we let him do it with a live BP," Martinez said. "This way you don't have to worry about how many innings, how many pitches he throws. It's more controlled."
Martinez said he expects Strasburg to take his next turn through the rotation.
Giovany Gonzalez will make his Grapefruit League debut when the Nationals return home to host the Marlins on Tuesday afternoon at the FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Gameday Audio. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.