ATLANTA - An inflamed bursa sac in his back will prevent Max Scherzer from pitching Sunday night against the Braves, but the Nationals ace is optimistic he’ll be good to go soon, once a cortisone shot he received earlier this week takes full effect.
Scherzer, who hasn’t pitched since July 6 due to what initially was explained by the Nationals to be a mid-back strain, learned on Monday he’s actually dealing with scapulothoracic bursitis: inflammation of the bursa sac between his scapula and rib cage below his right shoulder.
He received a cortisone shot and was hopeful he’d be able to throw off a mound three days later. But four days removed from the shot, he’s still unable to take the bullpen mound. So he acknowledges he won’t start Sunday night’s series finale at SunTrust Park.
“I can’t pitch this weekend,” the right-hander said. “I haven’t thrown off the mound. I gotta get off a mound.”
Scherzer is disappointed he won’t face the Braves during this series, but he’s also optimistic in the larger picture he’ll be ready to return soon. That’s in part because he’s been talking with former teammate Shawn Kelley, who recently dealt with this exact same ailment and eventually benefited from his cortisone shot.
“Yesterday I was kind of pulling my hair out, because it was day three and it wasn’t better,” Scherzer said. “But talking to Kelley, it took five or six days and it worked for him. So right now, I’m on day four of that. I’m trying to stay optimistic and say: Hey, in a couple days I should be feeling really good if this goes exactly as we think it should.”
Scherzer had never heard of scapulothoracic bursitis and never knew he had a bursa sac in anything other than his shoulder or knee. He admitted he had to look it up on Google.
He described the feeling he gets when he tries to throw as “like having a rock in your shoe and trying to run.” But he’s relieved to have a better diagnosis now, and he believes the cortisone shot will get him back on track.
Austin Voth will start Sunday night’s game against the Braves, and Erick Fedde figures to start Monday’s homestand opener against the Rockies. If Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez stay on schedule to finish out that series against Colorado, Scherzer theoretically could slot back into the rotation for next Friday’s game against the Dodgers. That would also allow him to face the Braves on July 31 at Nationals Park.
“When he feels like he is ready, he will throw a bullpen,” manager Davey Martinez said. “And then we’ll go from there. We’ll slide him in accordingly.”
Update: It’s been a pitchers’ duel here early on tonight, with Patrick Corbin and Julio Teheran swapping zeros through 3 1/2 innings. The Braves finally got to Corbin in the bottom of the fourth, via back-to-back two-out doubles. The second of those, from Austin Riley, came on a 3-0 pitch with first base open and the No. 8 hitter on-deck. Not ideal. Then again, it wouldn’t be that big a deal if the Nats had been able to do anything against Teheran. They’ve had only one baserunner through four innings: Anthony Rendon, who singled in the top of the first. They’ve done nothing else so far against a pitcher they’ve hit pretty hard over the years.
Update II: Make it 2-0 Braves after five. They added on when Ronald Acuña Jr. narrowly stole second base with two outs, putting him in position to score moments later on Freddie Freeman’s RBI single. The Nats still can’t get anything going against Teheran, who has retired 15-of-16 batters faced so far tonight.
Update III: The Nats finally got on the board. They got three hits in the top of the sixth, including Anthony Rendon’s two-out RBI single to score Gerardo Parra. That knocked Teheran out of the game, but Jerry Blevins got Juan Soto to popout to end the rally. So the Nats now trail 2-1 and are going to their bullpen in the bottom of the sixth.
Update IV: And the bullpen gave up an insurance run in the seventh. Tanner Rainey, who was lights-out last night, wasn’t tonight. It’s 3-1 on Acuña’s RBI double, and now the Nationals are running out of time.