WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Shortly after Lucas Giolito got traded to the White Sox this offseason, Erick Fedde called him in disbelief. Fedde had been following Hot Stove rumors, where his own name was mentioned as a possible trade chip, but it was still difficult to predict that the Nationals would deal three of their top pitching prospects.
Then Giolito reminded Fedde of what this meant for him. Some of the players above Fedde on the depth chart were gone, providing him an opening to make an impact in Washington sooner, rather than later. He arrived this week ready to begin his first Major League Spring Training as the highest-rated pitching prospect in camp, according to MLBPipeline.com.
"I just want to get to know everyone, try to show everyone, the team and the coaching staff, what I'm about as a player, and just display my talents a little bit," Fedde said. "Show them I'm a hard worker, and then let everyone else decide what they want from there."
Washington's rotation is almost certainly in place, barring injury, but the club has questions concerning its starting pitching depth. A.J. Cole, the Nationals' No. 10 prospect, is likely the sixth starter, but he has struggled during his brief career in the Majors. Austin Voth, the sixth-ranked prospect, made it to Triple-A Syracuse last season and has had success. He was in Major League camp in 2016 before being added to the 40-man roster this offseason, but he has still never pitched in the Majors, so there is some uncertainty.
That leaves an opening for Fedde, who turns 24 this month, if he can impress the Nationals' coaching staff at camp and continue to develop now nearly three years removed from Tommy John surgery. In his first full season since the 2014 procedure, he posted a 3.12 combined ERA, with a 9.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings rate in 23 games (22 starts) between Class A Advanced Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.
"You learn about how long [the season] is and how it can be straining on a body," Fedde said, "and just learning from some other guys on how to stay in shape and get through the whole season and where I want to be over the course of a long season. Just trying to work on being ready to pitch for a whole big league season."
Fedde became more comfortable throwing his changeup as last year progressed, and he wants to continue working on its command in the zone. He would like to take the opportunity to learn from Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg while he is in camp, but like most rookies, he wants to do so while flying under the radar.
"I just want to keep my head down and go to work," Fedde said. "I've proved absolutely nothing at this level. So it's just kind of a little nervous excited, just making sure I'm doing the best I can without being over the top."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.