WASHINGTON -- The sight of Bryce Harper in a Phillies uniform on Tuesday night at Nationals Park will likely be a bit jarring at first, but that's to be expected after Harper spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Nationals. But Max Scherzer has grown used to
WASHINGTON -- The sight of Bryce Harper in a Phillies uniform on Tuesday night at Nationals Park will likely be a bit jarring at first, but that's to be expected after Harper spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Nationals. But Max Scherzer has grown used to seeing former teammates leave for different teams, so while he acknowledged facing Harper for the first time might be strange, he knows he better get used to it.
“That's kind of the way I see it. He's signed there forever, basically. Or at least forever in my career,” Scherzer said with a laugh. “We're going to be facing each other a lot. This is just the first. Whatever happens on Tuesday, it's going to be the course of a career of facing him. This is just Round 1.”
The Nationals toggled their rotation to set up the showdown with Philadelphia on Tuesday night, pushing Scherzer up a day to remain on his normal five-day schedule and pushing Anibal Sanchez back to Wednesday afternoon. The idea was to keep Scherzer on regular rest at the start of the season, which puts him on target to start three of the Nats’ first eight games, all against the Mets and Phillies.
Even after throwing 109 pitches across 7 2/3 innings on Opening Day, Scherzer is fine with forgoing two potential extra days of rest that could come from the off-days built into the schedule. He believes his arm can handle the five-day schedule the first three times through the rotation because he will be rewarded with an extra day off in between his third and fourth starts.
“It’s the number of times you’re doing the five-day consecutively,” Scherzer said. “That’s when you can kind of fatigue when you are running into the [five-day schedule], five straight times. That’s kind of my line, where I get tired. But I don’t think I’m going to be into that situation here in April.”
Scherzer has been arguably the most durable pitcher in all of baseball since the start of 2013, throwing at least 200 innings in six consecutive seasons and leading MLB in innings pitched during that span. He is a creature of habit who is in tune with his arm's health, which he says is great to start the season. Pitcher health, of course, is an inexact science, but at the age of 34, Scherzer has found a way to remain on the field and at the top of his game.
“That’s what he builds himself for,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s had a long Spring Training. He got to Spring Training [on] Jan. 2, so he builds himself up to be ready to throw 110 pitches, Day 1. That’s who he is.”
And it sets up a marquee matchup for Tuesday, when Scherzer will serve as Harper’s one-man welcoming committee back to D.C.
“It's going to be fun,” Scherzer said. “Look, the NL East is loaded. Every single game's going to matter, and this one is just as important. That's what makes this fun.”
Doolittle feeling the March MadnessSean Doolittle couldn’t watch in public. He didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of people, watching his alma mater, the University of Virginia. So he watched from home as the Cavaliers’ beat Purdue 80-75 in overtime on Saturday night to advance to the Final Four.
Both Doolittle and Ryan Zimmerman are alumni of Virginia, which Doolittle noted became the first school to reach the Final Four after losing to a No. 16 seed the previous season.
“It’s been a fun year,” Doolittle said. ‘Hopefully, it’s not done yet.”
Scherzer and the Nationals welcome Harper back to D.C. for the first time in his career as a visiting player when the Phillies arrive to Nationals Park for a two-game series starting Tuesday. This is the first time in Scherzer’s career he will face Harper. The Phils will send Zach Eflin to the mound for the 7:05 p.m. ET tilt.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.