SAN FRANCISCO -- Max Scherzer is expected to miss at least one more start for the Nationals, according to manager Dave Martinez, and he'll almost certainly spend more time on the injured list with a strained rhomboid muscle in his upper back. Martinez said Scherzer was “status quo” prior to Wednesday’s series finale at Oracle Park, and that the right-hander might attempt to play catch.
But Scherzer did not appear to play catch prior to Wednesday's game, nor did he pick up a ball on Tuesday. After Scherzer felt some discomfort following light catch over the past few days, Martinez initially hinted that Scherzer might not pick up a ball again until Friday in New York.
“Because he did come out not feeling good, I think the best thing is to make sure that he feels 100 percent, really,” Martinez said. “Like I said, it’s frustrating for him, because he’s never been injured…. It’s been slower than he anticipated, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Initially, Scherzer thought that this back injury would not require him to miss any time.
Scherzer first felt soreness in his back following his start in Detroit on June 30, and he pitched through it for one start before his first stint on the injured list. He returned on July 25 to throw five innings against the Rockies, but the discomfort returned the next day and the Nats placed him on the IL on July 29, retroactive to July 26.
Washington shut down Scherzer for a few days in order to let him build up strength in his back and to allow his injury to calm down. But the sidelined Scherzer has been antsy. He wanted to play catch on Tuesday, but the Nats had to force him to take a day off. Martinez has instructed the training staff to keep him busy.
Scherzer, who just turned 35, has been one of the most durable pitchers in baseball. He has made at least 30 starts in 10 consecutive seasons, and he has thrown at least 200 innings every year since 2013. This injury has interrupted what was shaping up to be another strong bid to win the National League Cy Young Award -- he already has three -- and it has left a hole in the Nationals' rotation on a team fighting for a position in the NL Wild Card race.
That's why Scherzer is fighting to get back on the field as quickly as possible. But the Nationals also understand that they need their ace to be at full strength in order to make a deep postseason run.
“We know he’s frustrated, but we’re going to get him right,” Martinez said. “I told him, ‘You’ve got to trust the medical staff now. I know you want to pitch.’ He wants to pitch, but [we've] got to be safe. [We've] got to make sure he’s OK.”