WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer is back on the injured list for the second time this month after the Nationals put him on the injured list (retroactive to Friday) prior to Monday’s game against the Braves with a mild rhomboid strain in his back. Erick Fedde was called up from Double-A Harrisburg and will start Tuesday night in Scherzer’s place as the Nats attempt to solve their ace’s back injury that has lingered all month.
Washington will be without its best pitcher for this three-game series against Atlanta while Scherzer spends the next few days attempting to strengthen the muscles in his back. He has still not thrown since receiving a stem cell shot on Friday morning and is not expected to pick up a baseball for a few days.
Scherzer would be eligible to come off the injured list on Aug. 5, but the Nationals are not viewing that as a target date, according to manager Dave Martinez. They want to wait until Scherzer is 100 percent before putting him on the mound again.
“He’s not a happy camper,” Martinez said. “He wants to be out there competing. So, this is kind of a tough deal for him, but I told him, ‘We’ll get you right, you’ve got to stay positive. We’ll get you right, get you back out there and you’ll be right in the thick of things once again.’”
The injury has interrupted another excellent season from Scherzer, who is coming off one of the best stretches by any pitcher in recent memory. He still leads or is near the top of the NL in several pitching categories, including strikeouts (189), Wins Above Replacement per FanGraphs (5.6) and ERA (2.41).
He was named NL Pitcher of the Month in June and had won seven consecutive starts when the injury initially popped up, following his eight-inning, 115-pitch outing against the Tigers on June 30.
He pitched through that discomfort and made his next start, on July 6, which was another gem -- seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts against the Royals. Scherzer believed the All-Star break would help relieve his back pain, but it continued to linger, so the Nats put him on the injured list and began treating a mid-back strain. When Scherzer’s back didn’t respond to that treatment, he went to see a doctor again and got re-diagnosed with an inflamed bursa sac under his right shoulder.
A cortisone shot helped relieve the pain enough for Scherzer to get back on the mound this past Thursday against the Rockies, but he woke up the morning following his 86-pitch, five-inning outing feeling discomfort again.
So the Nats made the decision to sit Scherzer, who turned 35 on Saturday, for now and try to move past this lingering injury.
“Max is going to come in tomorrow and say he feels really good,” Martinez said. “But right now we just want him to understand, ‘Let’s just take our time and get it right so that this doesn’t continue to be an issue.’"
• A CT scan on Matt Adams’ right foot came back negative one day after Adams got hit by a pitch that forced him to leave Sunday’s game early. Adams would not have started Monday regardless, with a left-hander on the mound, but Martinez was hopeful he would be available to pinch-hit.
• The Nats designated reliever Justin Miller for assignment on Monday. Miller has been on the injured list since May 18 with a right rotator cuff strain, and had been transferred to the 60-day IL. But he had begun a rehab assignment last week. On Sunday, he tossed a scoreless inning with a pair of strikeouts for Triple-A Fresno.