Max Scherzer isn’t holding back on the mound as he ramps up for Opening Day on July 23 against the Yankees. The Nationals ace struck out nine over four frames in Monday’s intrasquad game.
During the outing, Scherzer fanned four consecutive batters across the second and third frames, both 1-2-3 innings. He was slated to throw 60 pitches, and he exceeded the count by seven.
“We all know Max,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s an unbelievable competitor, and he’s going to bring it every day. I’ve said over and over again -- even the days he doesn’t pitch, he brings it every day.”
Voth ready to answer call to start, if asked
In a season with many uncertainties, Austin Voth knows this: If he is named the Nationals' fifth starting pitcher, he will be ready for a spot in the rotation.
“I’ve been preparing for this role the whole offseason down in Florida,” Voth said. “I haven’t stopped preparing for it. I’m ready if I get the role. It’s something that I’m ready for. I’m ready to take it on.”
“I like him,” Martinez said. “His velo’s good. He’s anywhere from 91 to 94 [mph]. He’s got a good command. He knows what he wants to do when he’s out there. He looked good for his first outing.”
Washington’s decision could come down to who is most ready to start when the season opens on July 23, and who is better suited to be a long reliever. Voth did both in 2019, throwing 41 1/3 innings as a starter and 2 1/3 out of the bullpen.
As he enters his third Major League season, Voth is looking to enhance his arsenal with his cutter-slider and a splitter. Last season, he relied on his four-seamer for 60.5 percent of his total pitches (.196 batting average against), his curveball for 20.2 percent (.182 BA), his slider for 11.3 percent (.286 BA) and changeup for 8.1 percent (.333 BA). Voth is also honing in on his delivery on the mound.
“Maybe tinkering a little bit here and there with keeping my back foot planted,” Voth said. “It tends to come off the rubber at times when I try to rush to the plate.”
The Nationals will continue to evaluate both Voth and Fedde as they play intrasquad and exhibition games leading up to Opening Day on July 23. Voth expects to reach four innings in his next outing, and he looks forward to facing live hitters. Beyond that, he’s leaving the decision making up to the coaching staff.
“I’m just going out there and trying to hit my spots,” he said, “and whatever happens, happens.”
Elías, Suero on IL
Major League Baseball has instituted a COVID-19 list this season, although clubs will not announce which players are placed on it due to privacy laws regarding individuals’ health. Players may address their status if they wish, though they are not required to do so. Merely being placed on an injured list without further explanation is not confirmation that a player has tested positive for COVID-19. For example, potential exposure to a person who has the virus can be sufficient cause.
With 36 pitchers in its player pool, Martinez said the team has “what we need to start the season.” He did not rule out a return for Opening Day, but noted there is a lot of work to be done before Elías and Suero can pitch in a game.
“They could be cleared by then,” Martinez said. “Hopefully we can get them back as soon as possible. But with those two guys, when they come back, they’ve got to pitch. They’ve got to build their pitch count up. They’ve got to face live hitters. They’ve got to do a lot of things. I don’t want to speculate anything, but we’ll see when they come in how they are and how they’re doing and go from there.”
All hands on deck
Third baseman Carter Kieboom was a late scratch from the starting lineup because of an issue with his contact lens. Martinez had to get creative when he rearranged the intrasquad team, calling on co-field coordinator Jeff Garber to play right field.
“[Bench coach Tim Bogar] comes over to me. He says, ‘We’ve got a problem.’ I said, ‘What now?’” Martinez recounted. “Any given day, you don’t know what’s going to happen. So we’ve just got to prepare with the guys we have to do the best we can and field what we believe is a competitive team that day.”