- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2017

Nationals outfielder Andrew Stevenson first became roommates with pitcher Erick Fedde when they were both in Double-A Harrisburg in 2016. When the two were promoted to Triple-A Syracuse, they roomed together again.

But last week, Stevenson, a second-round pick in 2015, was suddenly promoted to Washington after a string of injuries left the Nationals desperate for an outfielder. The two wouldn’t have to wait long before they were re-united again as Fedde was promoted Sunday to be the Nationals’ starting pitcher against the Colorado Rockies.

Filling in for Stephen Strasburg, Fedde got his first taste of the majors, posting an 11.25 ERA following a Nationals’ 10-6 loss to the Rockies. The game was the first of a doubleheader after Friday’s game was rained out.

“I was for sure a little nervous, once you get into the pen you can see the whole stadium, it was pretty exciting,” Fedde said. “Once I got out there, it’s seemed to go pretty quickly, but it was enjoyable just getting ready for the game.”

Fedde, 24, is regarded as the Nationals’ top pitching prospect and has spent 2017 developing in the minors. He started the year in Harrisburg and was called up to Syracuse after appearing in 17 games.

In that span, Fedde has mostly appeared as a reliever, starting in only 11 of 27 games. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters in May he still envisioned Fedde as a major league starter, but they wanted to develop him as a reliever in case the Nationals’ bullpen needed help later in the season. Before being called up, Fedde had started his last four games in Syracuse.

Fedde started Sunday because Strasburg is on the 10-day disabled list with an arm injury. The Rockies proved to be an tough team for Fedde’s first start.

In four innings, Fedde allowed seven runs and 10 hits. Colorado took advantage of his fastball and change-up — a pitch Fedde has been trying to improve on all season. The runs were also steady with Fedde allowing at least two scores in every inning besides the second.

“I think what he gave us was better than what the results were,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “They scored those first couple runs on a couple soft singles. He threw strikes for the most part. … But that was his first time out. If we had to pick a first time out for him, we probably wouldn’t have picked Colorado — that’s just how it was — because Colorado can hit.”

As for Fedde’s future, it depends on Strasburg’s health. The Nationals were encouraged by Strasburg’s bullpen session on Saturday and Baker has said he only expects the starter to miss one start.

Fedde said he could do a better job at executing two-pitch strikes.

“I’m definitely not happy with the results, but I felt like my stuff was pretty good,” he said. “I guess a lot of balls landed in good spots for them, but it’s one where I still need to make better pitches and get better results.

Still, Washington had enough firepower to make the game competitive. In the third inning, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman hit a 3-run shot into the right field bullpen area to tie the game 4-4.

With the home run, Zimmerman became the District’s all-time leader in home runs — passing former Senators slugger Frank Howard with 238.

In a statement provided by the Nationals, Howard said Zimmerman was on the path to the Hall of Fame.

“Ryan Zimmerman  —  this guy is something very special. I’ve met him three or four times, and you don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know this guy is the ultimate professional, the pro’s pro,” Howard said. “Besides his outstanding athletic ability, he carries himself with dignity on and off the field. He has tremendous presence, and he is class personified.”

Shortly after Zimmerman reached the dugout, he popped back out to wave to fans and they gave him a standing ovation.

“I never expected to, to be honest with you,” Zimmerman said of breaking the record. “I never really hit home runs in high school or college, or anywhere really. I’ve had a chance to meet him a couple of times and obviously respect him a ton and what he did. He hit a ton more home runs, just not here. But it’s a really cool honor and I’m proud of it.”

But Zimmerman wasn’t done. He homered again in the seventh and tied Tim Wallach to have the most RBIs in franchise history with 905. It was Zimmerman’s 24th home run of the season and brought the Nationals within three, 8-5.

Reliever Matt Grace took over for Fedde and allowed one more run in the sixth. Later in the eighth, Joe Blanton gave up an RBI-triple to Nolan Arenado to score Charlie Blackmon, although part of the miscue belong to Howie Kendrick. Kendrick mistimed diving for a line-drive, which got Arenado to third and made it 9-5.

The Rockies tacked on another run in the ninth, courtesy of Ryan Hanigan doubling off Nationals reliever Oliver Perez and scoring Raimel Tapia.

The Nationals got on the board in the first inning when Wilmer Difo hit a solo home-run and trailed 2-1.

Washington also made a late push in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with only one out. Anthony Rendon proceeded to score Brian Goodwin with an RBI single, but Kendrick grounded out to a double play to end the ballgame.

Before the game, the Nationals released outfielder Chris Heisey after acquring Kendrick from Philadelphia on Friday. Heisey had spent most of the season on the DL and had been there with a groin injury. The 32-year-old struggled in 2017, hitting .162, and the Nationals needed a spot on their 40-man roster for Kendrick, who is also an outfielder.

Baker said Heisey asked for his release instead of opting to go on the extended 60-day DL, which would have freed up his roster spot and kept Heisey with the Nationals.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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