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Scherzer on adversity in spring: 'I welcome it'

Nats ace recovers from bumpy 1st inning in 2nd start of camp
@jessicacamerato
February 27, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Max Scherzer’s second start of Spring Training didn’t go as smoothly as his debut -- and he’s glad. After throwing two scoreless frames on Saturday against the Astros, Scherzer ran into road bumps against the same opponent Thursday night at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Max Scherzer’s second start of Spring Training didn’t go as smoothly as his debut -- and he’s glad.

After throwing two scoreless frames on Saturday against the Astros, Scherzer ran into road bumps against the same opponent Thursday night at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

The righty threw a predetermined three innings, allowing three hits, two runs (one earned), with two wild pitches and one walk -- all in the first frame. He also struck out five batters in Washington’s 5-5 tie with Houston.

Box score

“You don’t want to just go three up, three down,” Scherzer said. “You want to pitch out of the stretch. You want broken-bat base hits to fall in. You want to face some adversity and have to make pitches around that.”

In the opening frame, Scherzer issued a walk to the second batter of the game, Jeremy Pena, followed by a ground-ball single to Yuli Gurriel. Abraham Toro reached on a fielder's choice (throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman in his first spring game), driving in Pena. Next up, Garrett Stubbs plated Gurriel on a soft drive to right field with still only one out.

But Scherzer settled in to strike out the final two batters of the inning swinging. He walked off the field to the dugout with new lessons learned.

“For me, having to work out of a jam in the first, that’s exactly what you’re looking for,” Scherzer said. “I was able to get so much out of today because stuff happened in the first.”

The 35-year-old Scherzer wasn’t rattled by the early challenges. He pitched 1-2-3 innings in the next two frames, calling on changes he wanted to make from his previous start. (Yes, Scherzer still worked on adjustments from two scoreless innings.) Manager Dave Martinez noted the execution of his cutter. Scherzer finished his second outing just under the Nats’ guideline of 40-50 pitches with a count of 49, including 33 strikes.

“I responded well,” Scherzer said. “I was able to make an adjustment off the last start. I wanted to get better glove-side location with my fastball, and I feel like I was able to do that better today. So, making adjustments between starts, that’s what you start looking for. For me, that’s a sign I have feel of what I’m doing with the baseball. There’s some things I want to continue to sharpen up and continue to get more feel of the baseball.”

It would be easy to think the second start of Spring Training wouldn't mean that much to a decorated three-time Cy Young Award winner and seven-time All-Star with 170 regular-season wins under his belt. He’s been through the challenges of the playoffs and come out on top. At this point in his career, can he really learn from a performance in late February?

Of course.

“In the season you’re going to face [adversity] -- I don’t care who you are,” Scherzer said. “You’re always going to be, in the regular season, facing lineups where you’re in big situations where you have to make big pitches. If you don’t get that in Spring Training, then when you get in season, you’re not battle-tested. For me, I welcome it. You want it. You want to get battle-tested here in spring to know how to make big pitches out of the stretch.”

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