ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer will not pitch this weekend against the Braves, after he received a cortisone shot this week in an attempt to clear up the inflammation in the bursa sac under his right shoulder blade.
Originally, the Nats diagnosed Scherzer with a mid-back strain, but he revealed prior to Friday’s game against the Braves that he is dealing with a condition known as scapulothoracic bursitis, which a team doctor found on Monday. The injury has kept Scherzer from pitching in a game since July 6, although he has been playing catch from about 90 feet each day. He did so again Friday, but he did not throw a bullpen session, which he would have to do before pitching in a game.
Scherzer, who says he has received plenty of help from Google, said the inflammation is contained between his scapula and ribs, but there’s nothing wrong structurally with his muscles and his scapula is still solid.
“It’s like having a rock in your shoe and trying to run,” Scherzer said to describe the injury. “That’s the best analogy it feels like trying to throw a ball.”
Both Scherzer and the Nationals were hopeful Scherzer would feel improved enough to come off the injured list this weekend in Atlanta, considering he normally feels good three days following a cortisone shot. So, he was perplexed when his injury still had not improved by Thursday, which prevented him from throwing off a mound like he would have preferred to be in line to start Sunday.
Fortunately for Scherzer, former teammate Shawn Kelley had dealt with the same ailment, and the two exchanged text messages Thursday night. Kelley told him he required five or six days after the shot to feel normal.
“When you get a cortisone injection, usually after day three, that’s usually when you feel your best, in my experience and all my life,” Scherzer said. “So yesterday I was kind of pulling my hair out, because it was day three and it wasn’t better. But talking to Kelley, it took five or six days, and it worked for him. So right now, I’m on day four of that. I’m trying to stay optimistic and say, ‘Hey, in a couple days I should be feeling really good if this goes exactly as we think it should.’”
Austin Voth will start Sunday’s series finale against the Braves in Scherzer’s absence.
Initially, Scherzer did not expect to miss a start at all with the injury, which he first felt during his outing on June 30 against the Tigers. He pitched through it to start July 6 against the Royals and tossed seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts, and even added a stolen base. When the injury did not improve, he decided to sit out the All-Star Game, hopeful it would pass with the extra rest.
The Nats held out hope Scherzer could start this past weekend in Philadelphia, but the injury was still being treated as a muscle strain and it was not improving. Scherzer was placed on the injured list Saturday and went to see a team doctor when the Nats returned to D.C. for their off-day Monday. And now he will also miss this crucial four-game series against Atlanta, the team directly in front of Washington in the National League East.
“He’s frustrated because he feels OK,” manager Dave Martinez said. “But says that last little bit, he feels it, and I tell him, ‘Then we don’t want to push it. We don’t want to regress what you already worked toward, so let’s just get it right.’”