Tim Chambers coached Bryce Harper for a season at College of Southern Nevada, helping develop a rare talent who would become the overall No. 1 pick of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft.
But Harper wasn’t the only pro prospect Chambers has coached, and he knows the extra attention that is given to those players.
Chambers has another highly regarded prospect this year in UNLV junior right-hander Erick Fedde, who confided to his coach early in the season the presence of the numerous radar guns at each of his starts sometimes is a bit much to take.
Fedde, however, has mostly pitched as if nothing has bothered him, compiling a 7-2 record and 1.80 ERA. He also has struck out 75 batters in 70 innings and walked just 19, and was named to the midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list.
“He’s been really good about it,” Chambers said of handling expectations. “You and I both don’t know what it feels like to have that kind of pressure on you.”
Scouts are high on Fedde not only for his production, but he also uses four pitches, including a fastball that regularly reaches 93 to 95 mph and will go as high as 97. He also mixes in a cutter, slider and changeup.
Chambers said the Toronto Blue Jays, who own the ninth and 11th picks, are especially interested in Fedde.
As UNLV’s Friday night starter, Fedde’s job is to set the tone for the series, and it’s a responsibility that has never been more important for him than in today’s 6:05 p.m. game against New Mexico to open a three-game set at Wilson Stadium.
The Rebels (25-15, 13-8) face the first-place Lobos (31-11-1, 14-4) as a suddenly desperate team, coming off a five-game skid that included a stunning three-game sweep at last-place Air Force last weekend. What seemed a certain at-large berth into an NCAA regional is now in question.
“This last weekend was a nice little wake-up call,” Fedde said. “We had one in Tennessee. We won (seven of) eight series in a row. I think this will do it again for us, to get back in shape, to give us a wake-up call to realize a regional is not going to be given to us.”
Fedde has shown a great confidence this season, a bulldog mentality to bear down in tough spots.
It’s a confidence that has been building, with the Las Vegas High School graduate putting together solid freshman and sophomore seasons before taking his game to the national stage last summer.
Fedde pitched in the Cape Cod League and for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. He went 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA in Cape Cod, and for Team USA allowed two runs and three hits while striking out three batters in 2 2/3 innings in a start against Cuba.
“It was pretty much all you could ask for,” Fedde said. “It definitely makes you mentally stronger, and gives you something to expect when I got a little attention and hype this year. I was really happy with my performances out there. You always want to go out there and dominate, but to actually go out there and pitch well, I was pretty excited with that.”
Fedde knew what would be expected when he entered this season.
Chambers has been careful to limit his pitch count, and Fedde has thrown fewer than 100 in three of his past four outings. The one time Chambers let him go, Fedde threw 122 pitches in a complete-game 5-4 home victory over San Diego State on March 21.
Having coached top prospects, Chambers knew how to keep Fedde in optimum physical condition. But Chambers also knows this season is important, and the pitch limits also have saved his ace for the stretch run when longer counts will be needed.
“It’s nice to worry about the team first and achieve our goals and make a regional,” Fedde said. “We’re on the brink of that. We’ve got to play well the rest of the year. It makes it much easier to focus on that and let the draft work itself out.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter @markanderson65.