Scherzer aces debut in orange and blue

March 21st, 2022

JUPITER, Fla. -- For those fans who still can’t quite believe that Max Scherzer is somehow, some way a Met, the evidence was plain to see for the first time in front of an extended crowd on Monday. As soon as the Mets were retired in the first inning of their 3-0 loss to the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, Scherzer popped out of the dugout and began his warmup pitches, clad from head to toe in blue, orange and gray.

Imagine that. That’s who Scherzer is now -- a Met. It’s as official as the ink on his three-year, $130 million contract, as clear as the lettering on the back of his jersey, no matter how difficult that might be to comprehend. Shortly after Scherzer signed, joining one of the NL East clubs he spent the past seven seasons torturing, he decked his family out in Mets gear. Scherzer owns plenty of it himself, because he is -- and this bears repeating for a third time in two paragraphs -- a New York Met.

“It is fun to have these New York fans behind you now,” Scherzer said. “Coming in and competing against them for so long, to now have them on your side is great. To see kids out there wearing your jersey, that always puts a smile on my face. So I want to go out there and represent myself and the Mets as best as I can.”

For the three-time Cy Young Award winner, that means bringing a businesslike air to the rotation. Almost immediately after Scherzer signed his deal in November, Major League Baseball instituted a lockout, which cut off players from having any contact with their teams.

Not a single person around the Mets fretted about Scherzer, who wedged his own prep work in between family time and CBA negotiations on behalf of the players. At the Cressey Sports Performance institute in Palm Beach Gardens, Scherzer not only worked out, throwing bullpen sessions and simulated innings, but also spent time meeting with and throwing to his new teammates. Among them was catcher Tomás Nido, who caught Scherzer’s five-inning Grapefruit League debut on Monday.

“It’s no shock to anybody this guy is ready to go,” Nido said. “This guy is here to win, and he lets it be known.”

Facing a relatively representative Marlins lineup in Jupiter, Scherzer needed 20 pitches to navigate the first inning, which included a bunt single and a run-scoring bloop. From that point on, the Marlins accomplished nothing against Scherzer, who liberally mixed all five of his pitches while adding velocity in the middle innings, at a peak of 96.5 mph.

Ask Scherzer, and he’ll say none of it mattered; what mattered for him was stretching out to five innings and 72 pitches with less than three weeks remaining until Opening Day. Scherzer will make two more spring starts between now and then, theoretically with an extra day of rest between each one, which will set him up to pitch the second game of the season in Washington. He aims to throw around 85 pitches in his next outing and 100-plus in the last, so that he can feel some fatigue in his arm and understand where his early-season limits will be.

“That’s the easy part, trusting him,” manager Buck Showalter said.

For Scherzer, this spring progression is elementary. He’s done it more than a dozen times. The only difference on Monday was the jersey draped over his shoulders, and the promise of what that means. When pitching for the D-backs, Tigers, Nationals or the Dodgers, Scherzer relished the adrenaline spike that came when he played in front of hostile crowds. He understands that at Citi Field, the fans that once jeered him are now prepared to embrace him.

“I like it when there’s a crowd, and it feels like they’re going to come out of the stands and get you,” Scherzer said. “I’m a high-adrenaline pitcher, so I feel comfortable pitching in that environment. New York is obviously one of those types of environments that brought that type of energy.”

Imagine all that energy now in his favor, emanating from a fan base that still hasn’t completely wrapped its mind around his presence.

Max Scherzer, three-time Cy Young Award winner. Max Scherzer, World Series champion. Max Scherzer, Met.

“It’s pretty crazy to have two [Cy Young Award winners] on the same staff,” Nido said. “I’m pretty excited to see how this all plays out.”