Scherzer makes spring debut, goes 4 2/3 innings (Nats lose 6-1)


Score: Cardinals 6, Nats 1

Recap: Max Scherzer made his first Grapefruit League start of the spring and went 4 2/3 innings, throwing 73 pitches against a Cardinals lineup featuring six regulars. The right-hander, whose debut was delayed by a stress fracture in his ring finger, allowed two runs on five hits and struck out four. One of the runs charged to Scherzer came after he departed in the fifth, when reliever Joe Nathan surrendered three straight RBI hits to pad the Cardinals lead. Joe Blanton gave up two more runs in the seventh. The Nationals lineup could not push across a run in five innings against St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martínez.

Need to know: Adam Eaton's spring in center field has been mostly uneventful, but he got a couple of opportunities to show off his arm today and impressed in each instance. Of particular note, Eaton nearly threw out Greg Garcia at the plate on a sacrifice fly to medium-deep center field.

On deck: Thursday vs. Mets in West Palm Beach, 1:05 p.m. on MASN


JUPITER, Fla. - He was a bit erratic, as might have been expected for his first Grapefruit League start of the spring, but Max Scherzer got better as his outing progressed and most importantly got a significant amount of work in without showing any ill effects of the finger injury that had delayed his game debut.

Scherzer went 4 2/3 innings against a Cardinals lineup featuring six regulars, throwing 73 pitches in a performance Nationals coaches and front office execs were monitoring closely given the ace's slow return from a stress fracture in the knuckle of his ring finger.

scherzer-pitching-red-sidebar-front.jpgSix days removed from a 54-pitch start in a minor league game in West Palm Beach, Scherzer today took the mound to face a St. Louis lineup that included big names Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta and others. He took some time finding his groove - three batters reached on hits in the bottom of the first, two on extra-base hits to the gaps - but he settled in and progressively improved.

Scherzer retired 7-of-8 batters at one point, four via strikeout. His fastball consistently registered 92-94 mph and topped out at 95 mph. It remains to be known whether he threw those fastballs with a conventional two-fingered grip or the unusual three-fingered grip he broke out this spring to compensate for the injury.

Scherzer's off-speed command was spotty early on but got better, capped by a sharp curveball he threw to freeze Randal Grichuk on a fourth-inning strikeout.

Most importantly, Scherzer was able to pitch enough to reach the fifth inning, facing three batters in that frame before departing with his pitch count at 73 (49 strikes). That should line him up well to advance to 80-85 pitches in his next start, then 95-100 in his final exhibition tune-up before he makes his projected first start of the regular season April 6 against the Marlins.

Scherzer was charged with two runs (one of them scoring after he was replaced by Joe Nathan in the fifth) on five hits and one walk. He struck out four.

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