When Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer missed several starts during two stints on the injured list this summer, young pitchers Austin Voth and Erick Fedde filled in with mixed success.
Whether or not that helped them earn spots on the Nationals’ playoff roster is still unclear.
“I guess it is the back of my mind,” Fedde said. “I really hope so. This roster is so deep and talented. It will be interesting to see.”
The final decision likely will make an important mark on the playoff identity of the Nationals, who were in a virtual tie with the Milwaukee Brewers (86-70) for the top wild-card spot Monday as they began a five-game home series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Voth tried to aid the cause when he started on Sunday at the Miami Marlins. He allowed just one run on three hits in five innings, but the bullpen let the game get away and Voth took a no-decision in the 5-3 loss.
Voth, 27, had a cut on his middle finger that limited his off-speed selection.
“It was bugging me for most of the game,” he said.
Voth (1-1, 3.35 ERA) has made eight appearances this year for Washington, with seven starts. A fifth-round pick in 2013, Voth has also spent time this year with Triple-A Fresno and Double-A Harrisburg and made one rehab outing in the Gulf Coast League.
Like Voth, Fedde also has had a circuitous season. He pitched at three levels, including Double-A and Triple-A, and has been used as both a starter and reliever.
A first-round selection in 2014, Fedde is 4-2 for Washington with a 4.68 ERA in 19 games, with 12 starts.
Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart said both men have bright futures.
“They have big league pitches that only lack consistency,” Menhart said. “But overall, we’ve been very pleased with their efforts. Being able to start and pitch out of the bullpen has really increased their value. Experiencing both roles is only going to help them obtain a major league spot moving forward.”
Fedde made three starts in July for the Nationals, a month in which Scherzer was limited to two. Fedde won all three of his starts in August. In his last start on Aug. 18 against the Brewers, he allowed four runs on 10 hits in five innings but still got the win.
“I feel like I have learned a lot this year for the future,” Fedde said. “It has been a whirlwind of a year, starting and relieving. I have been pretty happy with the way I have thrown. I feel I have helped the team.”
With the postseason on the horizon, there won’t be a need for a No. 5 starter very soon. Fedde and Voth instead could be used as bullpen arms during the playoffs. Fedde has recent experience as a reliever and manager Dave Martinez has mentioned Voth as an option for the same role.
“I often think about, once we get there, [Voth could] be a guy that we can plop in and he can get big outs for us,” Martinez said this month. “He’s got good stuff, and we just got to keep him going.”
But until then, they will play whatever role the team needs them. For instance, Fedde has been a spot starter throughout the season. He had to be ready to pitch while Scherzer was injured earlier in the year in case the ace couldn’t go.
Fedde realizes the obvious — Scherzer (10-7, 2.81 ERA) at less than 100% is better than most alternatives.
“I had to kind of shadow him in a way and stay out of his way, but be able to go,” Fedde said. “We want the Cy Young Award winner on the mound when we can.”