CHICAGO - Max Scherzer completed his typical day-after-start routine at Wrigley Field with no setbacks, so he’s good to make his next scheduled start as planned. But the Nationals ace reiterated that he’s not all the way to his pre-injury form and that he’ll likely need to approach the rest of his season with far more caution than he has in the past.
“I’m not out of the woods,” he said prior to the Nationals’ series opener against the Cubs. “I’ve got to still take care of this, got to do all the treatment, got to do all the strengthening, really focus on that so I can build up the intensity in the game. This is an endurance injury on my back, so we’ve got to treat it as such.”
Scherzer made his return to game action Thursday night for the first time in four weeks, throwing four innings of one-run ball against the Pirates. Pulled after throwing only 71 pitches, he was encouraged that he felt physically fine but also acknowledged he wouldn’t know for sure until he woke up this morning in Chicago and had a chance to go through his full workout.
Scherzer did go through the full workout, including a long run and then a throwing session on flat ground from 60 feet.
“I played catch and it worked,” he said. “So there’s no setbacks in this.”
The Nationals will give Scherzer (and everyone else in the rotation) an extra day of rest before his next start, thanks to a pair of off-days next week. He’s scheduled to take the mound again Wednesday night against the Orioles at Nationals Park.
Even if healthy, though, Scherzer understands he can’t push himself quite the way he did before he suffered his upper back injuries earlier this summer.
“There’s a fine line, but I completely understand where that line is at: I can’t get hurt again,” he said. “I understand more about this injury more than ever, and right now I can go out there and pitch in a controlled manner and not just try to rear back and throw as hard as I can in certain situations.
“You know, heck, in some ways this might make me a better pitcher. When I come out on the other side, I may be a better pitcher because of this, because of what I’m learning how to do right now and how to still be sharp and yet still be controlled. So let’s look at this glass half-full.”
Though they still haven’t officially announced it, Joe Ross is set to start Saturday afternoon, his lower right leg having healed from the comebacker that struck him Monday night in Pittsburgh. Ross emerged from Thursday’s bullpen session with no issues, and unless something went wrong during his routine workout this morning he’ll be good to start as planned.
That means Erick Fedde will be available out of the bullpen this weekend, though manager Davey Martinez also said the club is considering a six-man rotation in the next week to both give Fedde another chance to start and to give everyone else in the rotation some extra rest.
Update: The Nats jumped on Jon Lester today. Or, more specifically, Adam Eaton jumped on Lester. Eaton crushed a solo homer in the top of the first, a rare homer off a lefty, and into the wind at that. It’s Eaton’s fifth homer in nine games, though. He is scalding hot right now. The Nationals then manufactured another run in the top of the third in smart fashion. After Victor Robles beat out a leadoff infield single, he stole second base before Aníbal Sánchez could bunt. That allowed Sanchez to then bunt him to third. Which allowed Robles to score on Trea Turner’s sacrifice fly to right. That’s the smart way to manufacture a run, and a smart way to take advantage of Robles batting eighth. Nats lead 2-0 after three.
Update II: Speaking of smart manufacturing of runs, how about the top of the fourth for the Nationals today? They scored two more runs on five singles and a walk. One of the runs scored on Kurt Suzuki’s line drive single to left. The other scored on - get this - Sánchez’s two-out, bases-loaded safety squeeze. I’m telling you, he couldn’t have placed it any better, halfway down the third base line, just barely in fair territory. It’s Sánchez’s first RBI since 2014, and it has given the Nationals a 4-0 lead after four.
Update III: And they’re not done. The Nationals knocked Lester from the game in the fifth and then tacked on a couple more runs off Pedro Strop, extending their lead to 7-0. Strop was one pitch away from getting out of the jam Lester created, but then he plunked Suzuki to load the bases and then uncorked a wild pitch to let one run in. After a walk of Brian Dozier loaded the bases again, Robles sent a two-out, two-run double down the right field line to complete the rally.