WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Max Scherzer was pushed back from his Spring Training start for what he described as “an ailment.” He had been in line to take the mound on Tuesday afternoon against the Marlins, and expects to make his next start on Sunday.
“It's on my [right] side,” Scherzer explained Tuesday morning. “Just a combination between lat, serratus, oblique. Just that whole general area. Once I adjusted my mechanics to alleviate the rhomboid stress, I shifted out to the side where I always had it. Just that part was just lagging behind in terms of where my arm strength was and how I was long tossing in January. Just that part was just a little bit behind. It's just been playing catchup.
“There's not even a strain. There's no MRIs. There's nothing like that. This is purely just a fatigue, endurance thing.”
Scherzer was hampered for the majority of July and August last year with a nagging back strain. In preparation for his 13th Major League season, he worked over the winter to get back to where he was pre-injury.
After dealing with the back injury, Scherzer was scratched from starting Game 5 of the World Series because of neck spasms. The Nationals are proceeding with caution for any players dealing with injuries during Spring Training, especially with someone whose role and contributions are as significant as those of Scherzer, the three-time Cy Young Award winner. In 2019, he ranked sixth in the National League with a 2.92 ERA and led the NL with 12.961 strikeouts per nine innings.
“I saw him throw today 300 feet,” manager Dave Martinez said after the Nats’ 3-2 loss to the Marlins. “We just want to make sure that he’s ready for the start of the season; that’s my biggest concern. I think he’s ahead. We pushed everybody back; he wanted to pitch the first day. He’s throwing 60, 65, 70 pitches in the bullpen. He’s going to be in good shape.”
Asked if this injury threatens Scherzer’s ability to be ready for Opening Day (the Nats have yet to announce a starting pitcher), Martinez said, “No, not all.” Scherzer also emphasized his level of concern is "absolutely not" high. He noted he has learned his body over the course of injuries, and he did not feel any pain throwing a baseball on Tuesday. His treatment includes strength conditioning and rest.
“I'm throwing the ball plenty far,” Scherzer said. “Everything's firing on all cylinders. They just didn't want to be in a game today where I was getting off the mound and just run into a situation. … This is what they wanted to do. I thought I could make it, but I understand where they're coming from. We're probably both right.”
Scherzer has started two Spring Training games, throwing 6 1/3 innings with eight hits, four runs and two walks allowed along with 10 strikeouts. He also tossed two scoreless innings in the opener, which was cancelled because of rain. This comes after a World Series championship run in which Scherzer threw 30 innings.
“I recovered, I thought, quickly enough to be able to make it out for my next start,” he said. “But the training staff saw that I'm kind of ahead of the program and just felt like it was an unnecessary risk for me to take the ball today. But their protocol is just have me skip a start, and I should be ready to go back out here on Sunday.”
Scherzer added, “Knock on wood, arm, shoulder, elbow all feels great.”