Scherzer set to return Thursday (and face Braves three times)

Barring any setbacks in the next 48 hours, the Nationals plan to activate Max Scherzer off the injured list for Thursday’s series finale against the Rockies, a decision they are admittedly making in part because it would then line him up for several key starts the rest of the season ... including a potential wild card game in October.

Yep, they’ve extrapolated the schedule out that far, just to make sure. More on that in a moment.

Of more immediate consequence, Scherzer continues to pass every test of his injured back. He threw a full bullpen session before Monday’s rainout and reported no issues. He played catch again before tonight’s game and said all went well.

Scherzer-Fires-White-Side-Sidebar.jpg“He felt good today,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He did his regular routine. So he’s scheduled to pitch Thursday if everything goes well.”

Scherzer needs only to get through his typical day-before-start routine in order to take the mound late Thursday afternoon for the first time in 19 days. He went on the injured list following the All-Star break with what initially was termed a mid-back strain but was later diagnosed as inflammation of the bursa sac underneath his right shoulder blade.

Scherzer received a cortisone shot last Monday and was able to throw off a mound in Atlanta on Saturday. He attempted to convince club officials to let him return for Sunday night’s series finale against the Braves, but that idea was quickly shot down and the Nationals had him go through his full between-starts program and aim for a return later this week.

“You know Max,” Martinez said. “He wants to pitch today. He wants to pitch tomorrow. He wants to pitch Friday, Saturday, Sunday.”

The Nats considered holding Scherzer back for Friday night’s series opener against the best-in-baseball Dodgers. But as they mapped out subsequent starts beyond this one, the Nationals decided there’s more long-term benefit to bringing their ace back for Thursday’s game against Colorado.

“We actually sat down and looked at the schedule,” Martinez said. “And that’s basically how we came up with Thursday. ... We wanted to see where he lines up, according to the schedule. And Thursday would be his day.”

If he returns Thursday and starts every five games - not necessarily every five days - Scherzer would make 12 more starts and would line up for each of the four remaining series against the Braves (July 30, Sept. 8, Sept. 14) and Phillies (Sept. 25).

How far down the schedule did the Nationals look as they tried to figure out when Scherzer would start?

“I went all the way to the wild card game,” Martinez admitted with a laugh.

So, is it safe to assume Scherzer would be the choice for a potential winner-take-all wild card game if the Nats can’t catch the Braves for the National League East title?

“Let’s assume that he is,” Martinez said. “I’m hoping that we’re not the wild card team. But yeah, we sat down and mapped everything out to that day.”

All the Nationals have to do now is make sure they’re still playing come October. They’ve got a bit of work ahead of them to ensure that.

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