Max Scherzer has long posited that the day after an activity - be it long toss, simulated game or bullpen session - is the most important component to the evaluation of an injury.
So after throwing a 65-pitch simulated game Saturday, how the right-hander felt this morning would go a long way toward determining if he’ll ramp up his normal schedule toward a Thursday start in Pittsburgh or continue his recovery from the rhomboid strain that landed him on the 10-day injured list on July 29 (retroactive to July 26).
Scherzer said Sunday morning that he’s fine, expects to throw a normal bullpen session Monday and is preparing to start Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates at PNC Park.
“If you ask me, I’m ready to pitch,” he said, acknowledging that the decision isn’t his alone.
Well, the Nationals have apparently seen enough of a progression from the ailment to pencil him in for Thursday’s outing.
“He’ll be on his normal schedule now and then if everything goes well, he’s probable for Thursday,” manager Davey Martinez said about a half-hour after Scherzer met with reporters in front of his locker in the Nationals clubhouse.
Scherzer said he felt no discomfort when he woke up this morning, nor had any issues moving his right arm without pain beyond what he expected.
“I’m basically sore today the way I should be sore, given that and all the treatment we did yesterday and throwing a sim game,” he said. “Like everything feels right where it should be. There’s no extra soreness other than what I anticipated. To me, that’s right on par.”
Which means he lined up to get back on the mound and help the Nationals try to shave a 5 1/2-game deficit to the Braves in the National League East.
Ever the competitor, Scherzer hasn’t exactly enjoyed standing at the dugout rail and being reduced to a de facto extra pitching coach and cheerleader.
“Honestly, the toughest part about this whole thing is I feel like the carrot’s right in front of my face,” he said. “That it’s such day to day that any day it could turn and you always wake up every single day thinking today’s the day that you’re going to wake up and not feel anything and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to throw it and you’re going to feel no pain whatsoever. And you go off running because it’s not a serious injury. That’s been the most frustrating part.
“If I knew that was going to be however long this is going to take - if I was dealing with, say, a more significant injury where they say, ‘You’re not going to feel good in six weeks’ - all right, you got it. You can easily mentally check out for six weeks knowing I’m not going to be able to throw a ball in six weeks and you can build your rehab around that. That hasn’t been the case. It’s really been day to day: ‘Hey, you might be feeling good here in two days.’ That’s really been the prognosis I’ve gotten from the doctors and everybody about what I’m dealing with.”
Now he’s eager to get back on the mound.
Scherzer understands the idea of balancing short-term health against long-term ramifications - as would any pitcher with 12 big league seasons under his belt - but insists that wasn’t really a factor with this injury.
“The long-term health, that’s not even part of the equation,” he said. “We all know that’s going to be good because we’re dealing with a muscle strain. Every other structure within the back, shoulder, you name it - nothing at play here. It’s literally dealing with the muscle strain and getting through it.”
Update: It didn’t take long for the Nats to stake Erick Fedde to a lead. With two on and two down in the first, Matt Adams rocketed a three-run homer to right-center, his 19th. The next batter, Victor Robles, deposited a Chase Anderson pitch into the stands in left-center for his 16th homer of the season. It’s the ninth time the Nats have hit back-to-back homers this season.
Update II: Adam Eaton tripled off the right field wall in the second, driving home a pair, to extend the lead to 6-0.
Update III: Another inning, another homer. Brian Dozier ripped a three-run shot over the wall in left to make it 9-0 in the third. After a Yan Gomes double and Fedde’s second successful sacrifice, Anderson was pulled. The Brewers starter allowed 10 runs on nine hits in 2 1/3 innings. Reliever Aaron Wilkerson fared no better, surrendering a three-run bomb to Anthony Rendon, followed by a Juan Soto solo shot. It’s 13-0.
Update IV: Fedde won’t get a shutout. Ben Gamel led off the fourth with a solo homer to left-center. The Nats lead 13-1.
Update V: Mike Moustakas crushed a three-run homer to right off the facade of the second deck in the fifth, cutting the deficit to 13-4.
Update VI: Solo blasts by Eaton and Soto, his second of the game, extend the lead to 15-4. Fedde is out after working five innings and allowing four runs on 10 hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Matt Grace is in to pitch.
Update VII: Dozier’s second homer of the day, an eighth-inning solo shot off position player-turned-pitcher Hernán Pérez, was the Nats’ eighth of the afternoon, tying a single game record. The previous eight-homer onslaught was on July 27, 2017 against the Brewers.
Update VIII: Moustakas went deep again, connecting off Kyle McGowin in the ninth for a two-run shot. Later in the inning, Orlando Arcia hit a two-run homer to make it 16-8.
Update IX: Following Arcia’s home run, Yasmani Grandal struck out and Trent Grisham hit a routine fly ball to Robles to secure the Nats’ 16-8 win.