Max Scherzer insists he could start as planned Saturday, but the Nationals decided not to take any chances with their ace after he was struck by a comebacker in his last outing, so they’ve pushed him back to Sunday’s series finale against the Pirates.
Aníbal Sánchez will now start Saturday afternoon, though the veteran right-hander will be on normal rest thanks to the club’s off-day in between their just completed road trip and upcoming homestand.
“It didn’t affect anything,” manager Davey Martinez said, “because Sánchez will go on his regular days’ rest, (assuming) that we’re playing today.”
A sketchy weekend forecast could force the Nationals to change plans again. But for now they intend to send Patrick Corbin to the mound for tonight’s opener, then Sánchez on Saturday and Scherzer on Sunday.
Scherzer hoped all along to pitch as planned after taking a comebacker off his lower right leg Sunday in New York. But he was unable to throw his standard between-starts bullpen session Wednesday in Philadelphia, opting to throw on flat ground instead.
Scherzer said he did throw off a mound Thursday while the rest of the team was off, and he felt like it went well enough for him to start Saturday. But after conferring with Martinez, general manager Mike Rizzo and director of athletic training Paul Lessard, the club decided to push him back a day.
“If it wasn’t April 12, I think things would be a lot different,” Scherzer said. “And when you also consider the off-days we have here, I mean, literally it’s just (Sánchez) and I flipping days. No one else in the rotation gets moved. Everybody else stays on schedule. It really was for them an easy decision, because there wasn’t going to be any other moves that needed to be made.”
Scherzer, who was wearing a compression sock only on his right leg today, insisted he’s good for Sunday, so there doesn’t appear to be any concern about his recovery taking any more time. The Nationals do have the option to keep pushing him as far back as April 20, though, while still keeping every other member of the rotation on normal rest.
“If they needed me to pitch today, I could. I can,” Scherzer said. “But I understand. Hey, we’re early in the season. Be smart. You’re dealing with a leg injury. Leg injuries can turn into shoulder problems in a heartbeat. So I respect what I have here, and I understand where they’re coming from.”
Tony Sipp, meanwhile, is available to pitch tonight after departing Wednesday’s game only four pitches in with what he described as left shoulder stiffness.
Sipp continues to explain the stiffness as normal for him when he’s in spring training. And because he signed late this spring, he’s still building his arm up the way he previously would have done in March.
The lefty expressed no concerns about his arm today, though, and his manager concurred.
That said, the Nationals have been extra cautious early in the season when it comes to pitcher injuries.
“Especially early in the season, you want to make sure you take care of them,” Martinez said. “It’s kind of nice that we’ve had days off for our bullpen and for our starting pitchers, that we were able to push back Max and give him another day. ... It’s a long season, and they grind, the starting pitchers every five days and relievers every day. So you have to find spots to make sure you take care of them and make sure you give them a day off or something like that, so they are available for the next day.”