Scherzer (back) plays catch; return still unknown

July 17th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Nationals manager Dave Martinez had reason to feel encouraged after played catch at about 75 feet in left field prior to Tuesday night’s 8-1 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards. It’s a sign of progress for Scherzer, who landed on the 10-day injured list Saturday (retroactive to Wednesday) with a mid-back sprain that had been bothering him since before the All-Star break.

Scherzer is eligible to come off the injured list Saturday, but Martinez was not ready to commit to starting him this weekend against the Braves. First, Martinez would like Scherzer to throw a bullpen session Wednesday or Thursday.

“The thing with Max and I is, we converse a lot,” Martinez said. “He’s tough. He wants to compete every day, and right now, he’s competing with himself. He wants to pitch. He was upset that he didn’t pitch the other day. With that being said, I told him, ‘Hey, we need you for the long haul. If it’s one start here or one start there, we gotta get you right.'”

The back injury interrupted perhaps the best stretch of Scherzer’s career and one of his finest seasons -- a 2.30 ERA, 181 strikeouts in 129 1/3 innings and a 2.01 FIP -- but the Nats do not believe his absence will be extended. Austin Voth was promoted to start Tuesday against the Orioles in his place, with catcher Spencer Kieboom optioned to Double-A Harrisburg. Erick Fedde will get called up to start Wednesday night in Baltimore.

Washington’s rotation is still set up well for the crucial four-game series in Atlanta, with Stephen Strasburg set to start Thursday night with an extra day of rest. Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez could still pitch on regular rest and push Scherzer back until Sunday if needed.

But each day Scherzer spends sidelined is another day that he grows even more restless.

“It’s hard to tell on Max,” Martinez said. “Max is always ready to pitch. I just want to see him progress. … We’ll see how he bounces back tomorrow.”

Worth noting
The Fresno Grizzles, the Nats' Triple-A affiliate, announced plans to extend the safety netting at Chukchansi Park to each foul pole starting at the beginning of the 2020 season.