Scherzer throwing on flat ground, Lester happy to blend in

The Nationals aren’t about to let Max Scherzer rush his way back from a sprained ankle, but as their ace continues to shows signs of progress, they will let him progressively ramp himself back up to the point where he’s caught up to everyone else in camp.

Scherzer took an important step in that process over the last two days when he was able to throw on flat ground and work out without reporting any significant issues with his left ankle.

Scherzer threw from 60 feet Sunday and “felt better,” according to manager Davey Martinez, who added the right-hander told him he’s “about 80 to 85 percent.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner also told Martinez he “felt no pain” while working out today in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Scherzer sprained his ankle more than two weeks ago during a pre-camp conditioning drill. He attempted to pitch off a bullpen mound shortly after that, but continued to feel discomfort, so he hasn’t climbed the hill again since.

The Nationals probably will want to see Scherzer continue to progress in his throwing on flat ground before clearing him to pitch off the mound. With 38 days to go until the season opener against the Mets, there’s still ample time for him to ramp up and be ready to start as planned.

“We’ll continue to build him up,” Martinez said, “and hopefully when he’s ready we’ll get him on the mound.”

In the meantime, the rest of the Nationals rotation has been participating in full with no apparent issues. Stephen Strasburg, returning from carpal tunnel surgery on his right wrist, threw his second official bullpen session this morning. Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester and the No. 5 starter candidates (Joe Ross, Austin Voth, Erick Fedde) all have been on regular throwing schedules.

Lester-Throws-Bullpen-Spring-Sidebar.jpgLester, the newcomer in the group, spoke to reporters via Zoom today and raved about the situation he now finds himself in. After a long career leading pitching staffs in Boston and Chicago, the 37-year-old left-hander comes to Washington as the fourth starter in a rotation that includes two of the most accomplished pitchers in baseball in Scherzer and Strasburg, plus a $140 million No. 3 starter in Corbin.

“It’s kind of nice, to be honest,” Lester said. “It’s a little more relaxing. You know, I can worry about just getting my stuff done and not worry about all the other hoopla of outside distractions or anything like that.”

How does a veteran with Lester’s pedigree step into a clubhouse already filled with experience and hardware?

“I just try to stay out of the way,” he said. “I just get my work done and try to be a fly on the wall. This is their team. This is their rotation. I’m not in any way, shape or form trying to come in here and change that. ... I’m a fly on the wall in this deal.”

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