Lester 'fly on the wall'; Scherzer progresses

February 22nd, 2021

would rather let his arm do the talking. Four days into Spring Training with his new club, the veteran southpaw reiterated his preferred role in the Nationals’ starting rotation.

“I just try to stay out of the way,” Lester said on Monday. “I just get my work done and try to be a fly on the wall. This is their team, this is their rotation.”

Washington’s starting rotation is headed up by Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin. Lester joined the group this winter on a one-year contract for his 16th Major League season. He will fill the No. 4 spot, with the fifth slot yet to be announced.

“It’s a little more relaxing,” Lester said. “I can worry about just getting my stuff done and not worry about all the other hoopla of outside distractions or anything like that. Like I said, I’m just worried about when my spot comes, pitching as well as I can and keeping that line moving.”

Lester’s acclimation to his fourth career MLB team has been fast-tracked by the fact that he knows several players and coaches and manager Dave Martinez from his six years on the Cubs. He had a good idea of what to expect from a Martinez-led Spring Training -- “pretty relaxed and fun with the music and everything else going on” -- and picked up where he left off with pitching coach Jim Hickey on mechanics they had discussed in Chicago.

“Any time you come into a new situation and you have familiar faces, it makes things a lot easier,” Lester said. “When you do kind of have that anxiety of being the new kid or whatever, you at least have somebody you can run to and have a conversation with or just feel comfortable around. But these guys have been great so far.”

Lester, 37, is looking to put together a strong 2021 campaign after going 3-3 with a 5.16 ERA last season. As he gets adjusted to his new team, he also will continue to adjust his approach on the mound.

“I think you learn that you can’t throw the ball by anybody anymore,” Lester said. “You have to rely on execution, you have to rely on movement, you have to rely on -- which I love the most -- that cat-and-mouse game of how I’m going to get to that pitch to get you out. And then not only doing it once, but trying to figure out how to do it two, three, maybe four times. So that’s the fun part, and it’s something that I wish I would’ve learned at an earlier age.”

Scherzer (ankle) update
, who sprained his left ankle during conditioning drills two weeks before Spring Training, is progressing in the Nationals’ day-to-day approach. On Sunday, he threw from a distance of 60 feet.

“He felt better -- he said he’s about 80 to 85 percent,” Martinez said on Monday. “I know he worked out today, said he felt no pain. We’ll continue to build him up, and hopefully when he’s ready we’ll get him on the mound.”

Class in session for Hudson
Veteran pitcher, World Series closer and, now, virtual teacher. added to his resume this offseason with firsthand experience in distanced learning.

“[I was] trying to navigate dad and husband life in between workouts, doing virtual school for a few weeks and trying to be technical support for a first-grade class every once in a while,” Hudson said, “Trying to figure out the new way to teach kids to do math is difficult. Something plus something -- there’s like nine different ways they have to figure out how 12 plus 12 is 24 nowadays. Luckily, my daughter is a rock star and teaching me some things.”

Did any of the number-crunching include, say, ERA?

“No,” he said with a laugh. “That’s too complicated for me.”