Scherzer set to return Friday, while Rendon and Escobar are still on the mend

ATLANTA - Citi Field will be the site of the best pitching matchup in the majors on Friday as Nationals ace Max Scherzer will get the start against Mets right-hander Matt Harvey. Scherzer’s swollen thumb has healed, allowing Nats manager Matt Williams to get his stud right-hander back in the rotation.

“Maxie will slide in there Friday,” Williams said. “He threw again today. Just some light flat ground catch and he feels good. He’s ready to go.”

scherzer-pitch-white-sidebar.jpgScherzer, who injured his hand at the plate last Thursday, says he will definitely wear a thumb guard when hitting on Friday.

Infielder Anthony Rendon was held out of another game of his minor league rehab stint at Double-A Harrisburg this afternoon as he continues to deal with tightness in his side. Williams indicated that he doesn’t believe the problem is serious.

“We’re making sure that he’s good to go,” Williams said. “He hit in the cage today. Threw. And that was the extent of his day today, so we’ll re-evaluate him tomorrow and see where he’s at, but it’s better today than it was yesterday, which is a good sign.”

The issue with his side is a new injury for Rendon, who has been recovering from a left MCL sprain since March 9. On Monday night, Rendon was a late scratch after having trouble loosening up his knee in the cold weather in Harrisburg.

“The knee is fine, and the side doesn’t really worry us,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “But it’s something you can’t just ignore and bow to, to get him ready. We need him ready for the long term. So we’ll see if he progresses to get back to his rehab and take it from there. The knee is fine. It has nothing to do with the knee.”

Rendon has appeared at second and third bases in the two minor league games so far. There is some question where Williams will use him when he finally returns.

“I think I can see him playing both,” Rizzo said. “I think he’s above-average at both positions, and I think he gives us a lot of flexibility. And now that (Yunel) Escobar can play all three, he gives us a lot of flexibility.”

Escobar, who is out after being spiked in his left hand Monday night, was able to participate in full batting practice and take pregame grounders today. Williams anticipates that Escobar will be back in the lineup tomorrow in New York. He is available only in an emergency situation tonight.

Escobar provided versatility for the Nats throughout the first month as well as both a leadoff and walk-off homers

“He is as we scouted him, as our scouts scouted him, and I’ve seen him for years,” Rizzo said. “He’s a really good ballplayer. He knows the game. He’s a student of the game. He does a lot of things on the field the right way.”

“We felt he fit into the lineup very well, because he’s more of a contact guy and sprays the ball to all fields. He was a guy we felt could play all three infield positions, including shortstop. He really knows the game, and he’s a really good, solid player.”

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