PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Max Scherzer is not committing to pitching during the first week of the season. He’s also not ruling it out.
That’s where the Mets stand mere days away from their April 7 opener in Washington. Scherzer, who was supposed to throw up to seven innings in an intrasquad game at Clover Park on Saturday, was instead a late scratch due to right hamstring tightness. He has dealt with this sort of injury before and believes he can heal in a matter of days.
Whether that will be enough time for him to start Opening Day -- or at any point during the four-game series against the Nationals -- remains to be seen.
“It’s tough to sit here and say, ‘absolutely yes’ or ‘absolutely no,’” Scherzer said. “It’s just a day-to-day thing. … You do the rehab and most likely, you get back out there pretty quick. That’s kind of the history of how these little hiccups on my leg work. I’m hoping that it’s the same thing. But when you’re dealing with hammies, you never know.”
Manager Buck Showalter added that Scherzer still has “potential” to pitch on Opening Day or shortly thereafter.
“I’m leaning on what Max says,” Showalter said. “He’s been very frank. You can trust him. He knows his body. He knows where he is. He’s dealt with this before.”
Scherzer first noticed something amiss with his right hamstring during his routine running work on Thursday. He “had good recovery the past two days,” in his words, but his hamstring tightened up again when he attempted to warm up for Saturday’s start. Rather than risk anything by pitching off a mound, Scherzer instead played a lighter game of catch.
“When your hamstring’s tight, you can’t go for it in a sim game at 10:30 in the morning in Spring Training,” said Scherzer, who dealt with several mild hamstring injuries while with the Nationals. “At that point in time, I just shut it down and got treatment.”
When the Mets lost Jacob deGrom to a stress reaction in his right scapula on Friday, Scherzer became the presumptive Opening Day starter. Now, the Mets may need to figure out another plan. The three healthy starters in the Mets’ rotation are Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker, who were lined up to pitch Games 3, 4 and 5 of the regular season, respectively. Showalter expressed a desire not to mess with the routines of those three, making them unlikely to shift forward in the rotation. Bassitt is still scheduled to make his final Grapefruit League start on Sunday, which will take him out of consideration for an Opening Day start.
Depth options include Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Trevor Williams. At least one of them is likely to make the season-opening rotation as a deGrom replacement, with Megill’s strong spring perhaps putting him ahead of the others. As of Saturday morning, the Mets were also reportedly discussing a trade that would bring Padres pitcher Chris Paddack to Flushing. It’s possible one of those pitchers could throw on Opening Day. It’s also plausible that the Mets could proceed with a bullpen day.
“I’m trying to think if there’s anything we wouldn’t [consider],” Showalter said.
No matter what the Mets decide, much of the optimism surrounding Opening Day vanished over the span of 36 hours, with injuries striking both deGrom and Scherzer. deGrom, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, will likely lose at least two months of the season to his shoulder injury. Scherzer, a three-time Cy winner, shouldn’t miss much if any time -- though that’s only a small consolation for those hoping to see him and deGrom atop the rotation all summer.
“You just deal with what you’ve got,” Scherzer said. “This is what I have in front of me. These are obstacles I’ve got. I’ve got to figure out how to navigate through it. I’ve been pretty good about that in the past. I find a way to get through different injuries. So hopefully this is just another one I can overcome.”
Asked specifically about his confidence in the rest of the rotation, Scherzer replied: “I don’t know. We’ll see. That has nothing to do with what I can and can’t do. I’ll be out there as soon as I can.”