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Scherzer optimistic but 'not out of the woods yet'

@JamalCollier
August 23, 2019

CHICAGO -- The good news from Max Scherzer on Friday morning was he was able to play catch without issue prior to the Nationals' series opener against the Cubs, keeping in line with his normal routine after a start. Scherzer was still not ready to put his battle with back

CHICAGO -- The good news from Max Scherzer on Friday morning was he was able to play catch without issue prior to the Nationals' series opener against the Cubs, keeping in line with his normal routine after a start. Scherzer was still not ready to put his battle with back and shoulder injuries completely behind him, however, maintaining that he was “not out of the woods” just yet.

“I just know I got to continue in the program,” Scherzer said. “I’m not out of the woods. I've got to still take care of this, got to do all the treatment, got to do all the strengthening, really focus on that so I can build up the intensity in the game. This is the endurance injury on my back, so we've got to treat it as such.”

Scherzer returned from the injured list on Thursday to make just his second start since July 6, and he tossed 71 pitches over four innings of one-run ball with three strikeouts and a walk in the Nats 7-1 win over the Pirates. He said after the game that he took a “controlled approach” rather than rearing back to throw as hard as possible.

The key for Scherzer, who quipped that he has been day-to-day for about six weeks, has often been how he feels the day after he pitches, to ensure the discomfort in his upper back and shoulder would not return. After his only other start during this span -- an 86-pitch, five-inning outing against the Rockies on July 25 -- he landed back on the IL a few days later.

For now, Scherzer will proceed with his usual throwing program before his next start, which comes with the benefit of an extra day of rest. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Sunday and keep moving forward from there.

“There’s a fine line, but I completely understand where that line is at,” Scherzer said. “I can’t get hurt again, but like I said, I know … I understand more about this injury more than ever, and right now I can go out there and pitch in a controlled manner and not just try to rear back and throw as hard as I can in certain situations.

“You know, heck, in some ways this might make me a better pitcher. When I come out on the other side, I may be a better pitcher because of this because of what I’m learning how to do right now and how to still be sharp and yet still be controlled. So let’s look at this glass half full.”

Worth noting

Joe Ross is expected to start Saturday against the Cubs.

Erick Fedde could be available out of the bullpen this weekend in Chicago, but Nats manager Dave Martinez said the team was considering using a six-man rotation the next turn through.

“We have days off I know, but we also have guys that have thrown a lot of innings,” Martinez said. “We’re weighing all our options right there. But we want to keep Fedde, Fedde’s been pitching well, we want to keep him going as well.”

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.