WASHINGTON -- The word “ornery” has been used more than once by his manager to describe Max Scherzer over the past few weeks, as Scherzer works his way back from the back and shoulder injuries that have bothered him for most of the last month and a half.
“It’s probably a really good assessment about my overall mentality right now,” Scherzer said with a nod of approval on Sunday morning.
But his mood should be on the upswing now that a return date is in sight. Scherzer is probable to start Thursday’s game against the Pirates, according to Nationals manager Dave Martinez, after he came away from his latest simulated game on Saturday without any issues again.
"He'll be on his normal schedule now and then if everything goes well he's probable for Thursday," Martinez said.
Scherzer declared himself ready to pitch, again, on Sunday, saying he only felt the usual soreness after pitching, none of the lingering effects from the strained rhomboid muscle that has him on the injured list.
“I’m sore in all the right spots, given the throwing 65 pitches and all the treatment we did yesterday,” Scherzer said. “It’s right where it should be, right where I thought it would be. For me, this is a good sign.”
Scherzer is expected to be on a pitch count when he returns, likely around 75-80. Injuries have limited him to just one start since July 6 -- a five-inning, 86-pitch start against the Rockies on July 25 -- between two separate stints on the injured list.
That has made it a frustrating process for Washington’s antsy ace, who has not spent much time on the injured list in his career. Scherzer entered this season having made at least 30 starts and thrown at least 180 innings in every season since 2010, so sitting on the sidelines while Washington fights for a spot in the postseason has been difficult, especially considering his injuries have been mostly nagging for the 35-year old.
“Honestly, the toughest part about this whole thing is I feel like the carrot’s right in front of my face,” Scherzer said. “That it’s such [a] day-to-day [thing], that any day it could turn. You always wake up every single day thinking today’s the day that you’re going to wake up and not feel anything, and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to throw it and you’re going to feel no pain whatsoever.
“And you go off running because it’s not a serious injury. That’s been the most frustrating part.”
The Nationals have remained afloat in Scherzer’s absence, going 11-8 entering Sunday during this latest stint on the IL, thanks to some big steps forward taken by Sunday’s starter Erick Fedde and Joe Ross, who is scheduled to start Monday. Martinez did not commit to which pitcher Scherzer would replace in the rotation, but the Nationals would like to keep both on the roster.
But the end of the rehab process should be near for Scherzer, who was in the midst of challenging for his fourth National League Cy Young Award before injuries interrupted what was shaping up to be a special season.