In unveiling their rotation plan for this week’s series in Philadelphia, the Nationals declined to name a starter for Thursday’s game at Citizens Bank Park. That, of course, is Max Scherzer’s spot, and the reason they haven’t officially named him their starter yet is because they’re waiting to see if his right triceps feels fine after a minor tweak last week.
Scherzer went through a standard bullpen session this afternoon, and according to manager Davey Martinez, that session went well and all signs point to the staff ace making his start as planned. But Scherzer will need to confirm he’s good to go once his arm has had a little time to respond to this throwing session.
“I talked to him after. He said in a few hours, he’ll know more or less how he feels,” Martinez said during his pregame Zoom session with reporters. “He likes to take that grace period to recover. But the ball came out really well. He threw well and he felt good.”
Scherzer had to be scratched from his scheduled start Saturday in Baltimore due to the triceps issue, which he said he suffered as a result of taking batting practice earlier in the week. He was optimistic at the time he would only miss that one start and be good to return for this outing, but he would need to be able to get through the bullpen session without problems before he knew for sure.
There is, however, another reason Scherzer can’t officially be named as Thursday’s starter yet. With the trade deadline looming the following afternoon, and with the Nationals now careening toward a must-sell position after losing four straight to fall to eight games below .500, general manager Mike Rizzo has no choice but to consider offers for his three-time Cy Young Award winner.
It remains to be seen if Rizzo gets an offer he deems acceptable, if Scherzer elects not to veto a trade (as he’s permitted to do as a player with at least 10 years in the big leagues, the last five with one club) and if Nationals ownership signs off on a deal as well. But in the meantime, Scherzer (who turns 37 on Tuesday) is left to try to compartmentalize everything and focus on getting himself ready to pitch Thursday for the team that has employed him the last seven seasons.
“I really believe that (he can),” Martinez said. “He just wants to compete. As far as he’s concerned, he’s competing for us on Thursday and that’s what he worries about.”
As this all plays out, the Nationals also await word on Stephen Strasburg, who today visited another specialist in an attempt to determine what has caused the neck discomfort that has sidelined him much of the season.
Strasburg, who seemed to be progressing toward a return to the rotation after a strong bullpen session last week, suffered a setback over the weekend. The club shut him down and made plans for him to be examined again, hoping to get answers about his neck and trap muscle.
They do not yet have the answer they seek.
“No word,” Martinez said. “We probably won’t hear anything back until tomorrow sometime. I’m assuming we won’t hear anything back until tomorrow.”