With two off-days built in between Max Scherzer starts out of the gate in 2019, Nationals manager Davey Martinez has decided their ace right-hander will go again in Tuesday’s series opener against the Phillies, even though it will be his second such start in the Nats’ first four regular season games.
Scherzer had six days off before his opening day start on Thursday, a no-decision against the Mets. Scherzer is tentatively set for his third start next Sunday, April 7 at Citi Field against the Mets again.
“(We want to) keep him on that five-day rotation. And as we get going, he’ll get an extra day, so he’ll start three days on the five days and he gets an extra day off and that’s when we plan on using (Jeremy) Hellickson,” Martinez said. “Right now, he’s fresh, he feels good. And he’s scheduled right now to pitch every five days and we’ll go from there.”
With six days of rest between starts in his career, Scherzer is 14-10 with a 2.93 ERA. With five days’ rest, his ERA is 3.07. With four days’ rest, his ERA is 3.36.
“(It) was their decision,” Scherzer said. “That’s for them to decide and make sure everything is in line to line up. That’s Davey and (pitching coach Derek) Lilliquist and (Mike) Rizzo’s call.”
Scherzer said having that extra day off coming into the regular season sets him up well to go into the regular five-day rotation. He threw 109 pitches on Thursday. With off-days this week on Monday and Friday, Scherzer is not fazed by the three starts in the Nats’ first eight games.
“I wouldn’t necessarily look at it as starts, I’d look at it as how many off-days am I actually going to get,” he said. “Once you start running on the five-day, once you get up to about five times through on the five days, that’s when your arm starts to get little tired and you can use an extra days’ rest every now and then. In spring training, we made sure we took off days. I took an extra day coming into the season, so I’m ready to come out and pitch when I need to pitch.”
Martinez said Scherzer prepared himself for this type of schedule almost like he’s in mid-season form when everyone else is just beginning the season. The skipper said his meeting with Scherzer after the opener made him confident the veteran was ready to go into a regular rotation this early.
“Yeah that’s what he builds himself for,” Martinez said. “He’s had a long spring training. He got to spring training Jan. 2. So he builds himself up to be ready to throw 110 pitches (from) Day One. And that’s who he is. The day after the game is when I typically talk to him and see how he’s feeling. He said he felt really, really good, so he’ll be ready for his next start.”
The only caution Scherzer offers is making sure the Nats slow things down a couple of times once they get deep into the season. But for right now, he’s good. And early on, he will get an extra day off when the Pirates arrive. He will have six days off between April 7 and his scheduled start against Pittsburgh on April 13.
“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, 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 lasted 7 2/3 innings Thursday, allowing only two runs on two hits with 12 strikeouts and two walks against the Mets. He threw 109 pitches, 76 for strikes. He is 9-2 with a 2.64 ERA with 138 strikeouts over 112 2/3 innings in 17 starts lifetime against the Phillies.