ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer’s back felt much better Saturday afternoon, so good that he arrived at SunTrust Park and threw 15 pitches off a mound, the first time he has done so since he was sidelined with inflammation in the bursa under his right shoulder, known as scapulothoracic bursitis.
“Great news, he felt great,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He threw pain free. He threw 15 pitches in the bullpen and did well. Now [we’ll] see how he feels tomorrow, and if he feels good tomorrow, we’ll try another bullpen on Monday.”
Scherzer exchanged texts with former teammate Shawn Kelley, who had been battling the same injury, and Kelley helped calm Scherzer’s fears after he did not feel improvement following a cortisone shot he received Monday. Kelley told Scherzer it took about five or six days to feel better, and Scherzer felt a complete 180-degree turn in terms of his health on Saturday, the fifth day after the shot.
On Saturday afternoon, according to Martinez, Scherzer played catch from 90 feet at high intensity, then shortened up to 60 feet before tossing 15 pitches in the bullpen. The next step for Scherzer, barring a setback, would be a bullpen session on Monday to put him back on his normal schedule. He could rejoin the Nationals’ rotation next week.
“From my understanding and what they’re saying, it’s nothing that will limit him in the future,” Martinez said. “But it’s just kind of getting it out of there. That’s been the biggest thing and how we had to explain it to Max, because Max, he wanted to go. And we said, ‘Let’s just make sure this thing’s out and that you feel really good.’”
Scherzer confirmed Friday that the injury would prevent him from pitching this weekend against the Braves, and his status has put the Nats’ rotation in a state of flux all week. Washington’s starter for Sunday is even more uncertain after Austin Voth, who would have been available to start on regular rest, felt some soreness in his shoulder after his bullpen session this week.
If Voth cannot start on Sunday, the Nats are likely to promote right-hander Joe Ross from Triple-A Fresno for a spot start. Ross met the team in Atlanta on Saturday, Martinez confirmed, although he was hesitant to commit to Ross if Voth is unavailable. Martinez also named Erick Fedde as a potential option to start Sunday on short rest, something he was willing to consider because Fedde threw just 66 pitches in his start Wednesday.
Nats reportedly plan to call up Blazek on Sunday
The Nationals are planning to call up reliever Michael Blazek from Triple-A for Sunday night’s series finale against the Braves, a source told MLB.com.
Blazek, 30, has not pitched in the Majors since 2017, but he has had some success in the Minors just two months into his tenure with Washington. His ERA for the entire season is an inflated 5.54, but he has an encouraging 28-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has the ability to throw multiple innings. The club has not confirmed the impending move, which was first reported by The Athletic.
The Nats will need to make a move to clear space on the 40-man roster for Blazek.