BALTIMORE - The Nationals have set up their rotation to have their top four starters on the mound for this weekend’s critical series in Atlanta. Provided their ace is ready to return from the injured list, which is not yet a certainty.
Manager Davey Martinez revealed this afternoon that Erick Fedde will be promoted from Double-A Harrisburg to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Orioles. That pushes Stephen Strasburg back to Thursday night’s opener against the Braves, with Patrick Corbin, Aníbal Sánchez and Max Scherzer lined up to pitch the rest of the weekend.
There is, of course, a major caveat to that plan: Scherzer’s back needs to be healthy enough for the ace to come off the IL for either Saturday or Sunday’s game.
Scherzer, who hasn’t pitched since July 6 due to a mid-back strain, played catch from 75 feet today at Camden Yards and said he “felt a lot better,” according to Martinez. The manager stopped short, however, of declaring him ready to go this weekend.
“Max is always ready to pitch,” Martinez said. “I just want to see him progress. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. He threw today, felt good. We’ll see how he bounces back tomorrow.”
Scherzer will need to throw off a bullpen mound before he’s deemed ready to return. That would probably need to happen by Thursday at the latest in order for him to start Sunday against the Braves.
“I definitely want him to throw a bullpen,” Martinez said.
Given the importance of this weekend’s series with Atlanta, which enters play tonight owning a 7 1/2 game lead in the National League East, there’s extra motivation to get Scherzer back on the mound.
Martinez, though, cautioned against pushing his ace for that start, no matter how significant it is, if it jeopardizes any future starts.
“He’s tough. He wants to compete every single day,” Martinez said. “And right now he’s competing with himself. He wants to pitch. He was upset that he didn’t pitch the other day (in Phialdelphia). But with that said, I told him: ‘We need you for the long haul. If it’s one start here or one start there, we’ve got to get you right. Let’s just take it day by day and see how you are.’ And today, it was encouraging that he felt so good. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”