Nationals Transition Top Pitching Prospect Erick Fedde to Bullpen

WASHINGTON — Erick Fedde, the Nationals’ top pitching prospect, has been moved to the bullpen, a way for the organization to better control his innings as he hopefully ascends to the big-league roster this season.

Fedde has gone 2-3 with a 3.30 ERA on the season. On Tuesday, he made his debut relief appearance for the Harrisburg Senators, the Nationals’ Class-AA affiliate, allowing one earned run on one hit and a walk with two strikeouts over one inning pitched.

Mike Rizzo was asked about Fedde’s new role — as part of the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week — during his weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies.

Do you like Erick Fedde going through the bullpen starting the rest of the season? Do you like routing young starters through that bullpen, or is that done just to limit his innings coming back from an injury? — Chuck in D.C.

“The answer is both, and yes I do like it, because I’m the one who came up with the plan,” the Nationals General Manager and President of Baseball Operations said Thursday. “I do like it. It’s a way of incorporating young Major League pitchers into the big leagues without throwing them feet-first into the deep end of the pool.”

“It’s a practice used by the Cardinals and the Braves for years and years on how to indoctrinate young pitchers into the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “You start ’em out in the bullpen, they get a good taste for it. You gradually stretch ’em out and work ’em out.”

The Nats have been especially careful with Fedde, beyond the normal mindfulness of a young arm, since he is a former Tommy John recipient. He underwent the procedure in 2014, just prior to being selected as a first-rounder by the Nationals.

Since missing all of his rookie season, Fedde has been on strict innings limits, similar to those imposed on Stephen Stasburg or former Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, as he’s steadily climbed through their minor league system.

“We see Erick Fedde as one of our starting pitchers of the future,” Rizzo said. “We felt that, because of the innings limit that he had, if we continued him as a starter in the minor leagues, he runs out of innings in early September, so this kills a lot of birds with one stone.”

“We get him a taste of the big leagues whenever he’s ready to come up,” he said. “He fills a need for us in a bullpen role. He’s got really, really good stuff and we can control his innings, because we have our post-Tommy John protocol that we adhere to quite stringently because players’ health and arm safety is paramount in what we do with our pitchers.”

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