WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It was as if no time had passed since the end of the season. There was Max Scherzer, standing on the mound, grunting as he pounded fastballs into the catcher's mitt, calling out different pitches and pitch counts and getting angry at himself when he
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It was as if no time had passed since the end of the season. There was Max Scherzer, standing on the mound, grunting as he pounded fastballs into the catcher's mitt, calling out different pitches and pitch counts and getting angry at himself when he did not execute.
This was the Nationals' voluntary workout session on Thursday morning, and the first bullpen session of the spring. And there was Scherzer, carrying the same intensity for his 60-pitch session that has become his trademark during the season.
"That was in my normal routine for how I get ready for the season," Scherzer said. "Sometimes, right now, this is the toughest throwing you experience as you continue to ramp up through the first bullpens, the first live BPs, the first games. There's a lot of throwing here. So for me, I always like to get on the mound, feel some fatigue and kind of work through it. I see benefits on that by the end of Spring Training."
This was not Scherzer's first time throwing off the mound this spring, but he insisted the early intensity was not unusual. Still, his bullpen session drew a few admirers, including the relievers who finished throwing before him and those pitchers waiting to throw after him.
"This is what starting pitchers do," Scherzer said. "I felt like I was out there forever by myself because you had relievers right next to me, and they only need to throw 20 pitches because they're throwing one inning. They don't have to ramp up. If you had [Stephen Strasburg, Giovany Gonzalez and Tanner Roark], we'd be having long bullpens and I probably wouldn't have been there by myself throwing a 60-pitch bullpen."
Circle of Trust
A new feature at Nationals camp to begin the spring has been the "Circle of Trust" before the day's workout begins. Before Thursday's workout, Nats pitchers, catchers, coaches and some members of the organization gathered around in a circle on the team's agility field for a brief meeting.
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It's something new under new manager Dave Martinez, who addressed the group before the workout began. The details of what was said in the circle, however, remain unclear.
"You've got to be in the Circle of Trust to talk about the Circle of Trust," Strasburg said with a laugh. "It's like 'Fight Club' or something like that."
Nats offer condolences
The Nationals offered their condolences to the community of Parkland after one of the deadliest school shootings in American history. Seventeen people were killed Wednesday by a former student with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which is about 45 miles south of the Nats' spring complex.
"Just how close to home something like that can happen," Scherzer said. "Here we are in Spring Training worrying about baseball and something that affects our country can happen that quickly, something so close to here. You think about, 'Man, could that happen where I grew up? Could that happen at Parkway Central [High School in Chesterfield, Mo.]?'
"I think everybody has time to reflect on tragedies like this and what to make of it. It's heartbreaking when you hear somebody shooting up a school. It just doesn't even register in your mind of that being a reality, and especially parents send their kids to school and they're just not even coming home. Everybody's hearts drop when you hear that story."
"It's heartbreaking, really," Strasburg added. "It makes you want to grab your kids and hold them close. It just shows that there's evil out there in the world and you can't just look the other way. Thoughts and prayers go out to all the families affected by that. Last night, I was watching the Winter Olympics and breaking news came in and it's like, 'Did that really just happen?' So, I'm still in shock. I think it affects the whole nation and that's just so tough to see that happen."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.