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Scherzer talks COVID-19 testing, rules, fans

@jessicacamerato
July 4, 2020

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer has walked into Nationals Park hundreds of times. But his first trip of the season was different than the previous five years. “It felt weird coming in,” Scherzer said Saturday. “It feels like an eternity since we were at Spring Training. So much has happened in

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer has walked into Nationals Park hundreds of times. But his first trip of the season was different than the previous five years.

“It felt weird coming in,” Scherzer said Saturday. “It feels like an eternity since we were at Spring Training. So much has happened in everybody’s lives since March.”

His competitive drive hasn’t changed, yet so much about his 13th Major League season has been altered by the coronavirus pandemic. Get caught up with the three-time Cy Young Award winner as he prepares to help the Nationals defend their World Series title.

“To be able to actually have the season get going, it was a sense of relief, kind of, to be able to get back in, get back around the guys and start ramping back up,” Scherzer said. “The season is right around the corner. That’s the weird part in this, is that we’re playing our first game in 20-something days. You’ve got to get ready.”

Comfort level with testing

As the Nationals' union representative and a member of the union's executive subcommittee, Scherzer was highly involved in the process of playing baseball this year and vocal in his opinions. He is resuming action with a sense of safety from his comprehensive knowledge of the health protocols, including the efficacy of the saliva tests.

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“Actually reading those studies and seeing that they can detect the virus at a higher rate, really -- to me -- alleviates a lot of fears for me on my end -- especially for my wife and my kids as well -- that I wouldn’t necessarily be bringing it home,” Scherzer said. “Because the testing is going to be happening at a frequency that should provide the answer to the result that if I were to somehow contract it, that I would be able to test for it at an early enough stage.

“For me, the testing is such a huge aspect to this, of restarting our season. And the test that we do have seems to be a highly accurate test, so that I do feel safe about going into a clubhouse and knowing that everybody else has been tested multiple times negative to really curtail any possibility that somebody could have it right now.”

Gearing up to start

The three-time Cy Young Award winner already threw the equivalent of two innings (65 total pitches) Friday, the first morning of Summer Camp workouts. His plan is to ramp up by tossing the equivalent of three, four and five innings, and then throwing six frames in his first start of the season.

“It was weird,” Scherzer said. “I’ve never been one to have a home gym or anything like that, but I found a way to get used to it. I had to. I was able to get by with just a few weights and some bands and was able to stay pretty much completely in my program of where I wanted to live, both upper and lower. I was able to do everything I needed to be able to do to keep myself physically in shape.”

In-game adjustments

When Scherzer takes the mound, his routine between pitches could look different. Players cannot lick their fingers, per health guidelines, and he’s exploring new ways to help his grip.

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“I worked on trying to just touch the back of my hair to try to get some sweat,” he said, “To get some moisture on my fingers.”

In favor of fans at the park

The possibility of having socially distanced, masked fans inside stadiums for games this season has not been ruled out. Scherzer would welcome having that added energy at the parks.

“To me, it seems totally possible that could happen,” Scherzer said. “Obviously they [ownership] know best of how they would actually go about having a process of bringing the fans into the stadiums. But when I hear that, that’s music to my ears as well because playing in front of empty stadiums is not something I want to do. I’d much rather have fans in the stands.”

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.