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As injury complication slows his return, frustration mounts for Max Scherzer

As injury complication slows his return, frustration mounts for Max Scherzer

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer woke up Friday with a new irritant in his back. This is a problem. 

Scherzer’s back issue kicked off a series of events: he phoned the Nationals’ medical staff to describe the tightness he felt, underwent an MRI, then received a stem cell shot after the MRI showed a strain of his right rhomboid muscle. Previously, Scherzer’s issue was his scapula (shoulder blade). The rhomboid muscle is more toward the spine than the scapula.

“It’s both,” Scherzer said Friday when asked if he was concerned or encouraged. "I’m not happy. But on the other hand, we’re talking minor strain, so there’s a heck of a lot of other things that could be wrong with your body and arm and shoulder. Those are really, knock on wood, those are the bad stuff.

“We’re just digging through this [back] injury, and the other good thing is that when I’m on the mound and throwing, I don’t feel any pain when I’m on the mound. Every time I play catch, I’m on the mound and throwing every ball at 100 percent.”

Scherzer originally had a problem following his June 30 start in Detroit. He managed and pitched through it against Kansas City on July 6, but it kept him from pitching in the All-Star Game. He was placed on the injured list July 13, retroactive to July 10, because of a mid-back strain. That strain was specific to his scapula. He missed 12 games (two starts) and was reinstated Thursday. He threw  86 pitches in five innings Thursday. Then, the morning ache came.

“Better, better,” Scherzer said about this time compared to the original issue. “This all came about in the Detroit start, I could feel it in the pen and didn't think anything of it. Just thought, ‘Oh, this will go away.’ Obviously it didn't, and after the Kansas City start it was really hurting, and I couldn't really move my shoulder. Whereas when I woke up [Friday], I could still move my shoulder, still had my range of motion, still felt good, but I could still feel that there was tightness around there. It's something that obviously it was enough to call the docs, let them know that hey, this is what's going on, this is what I feel, so that's maybe just ... if that happened, go get an MRI and get this taken care of."

Like last time, Davey Martinez has a battle on his hands between the now and down the road. Scherzer is slated to pitch Tuesday against first-place Atlanta. The Nationals started Friday just 4 ½ games out of first place. Scherzer missed his last scheduled start versus the Braves last Sunday, and keeping him at bay was a chore for Martinez. 

“One, you got to understand the person, what you're dealing with,” Martinez said. “And knowing he wants to be able to help his team. But then you got to also think about his future, the future of this organization and the games he is going to pitch in come September. We're going to really need him. And that's sometimes with Max -- it's tough for him to understand because he's all about the now. But it's my job to say, 'Hey, look let's just kind of...' We went through the right course of action. Believe [it] when I tell you.

“He came in my office last weekend on Saturday saying he was going to pitch on Sunday, and I had to keep telling him no. We're in the middle of the game Saturday and for an inning he was adamant saying he was pitching on Sunday, and I had to tell him we're in the middle of a game. We'll talk about this later.

"And then he came back and I said I just want you to stick to your routine and get ready to pitch Thursday. He was good and he threw a great bullpen. He felt good all through the game [Thursday] and this thing popped up. He's aggravated. I told him, let's just get you right. When you're right, you're one of the best. Let's get it right this time.”

Scherzer is baffled by the cause of this issue. “What did I miss?” he’s asked himself. He previously thought he knew the origin of the scapula injury, but declined to publicly say what he believed it to be. Here, he was at a loss. And now he has to wait.

“That's basically all that you can do right now,” Scherzer said. “That's what happened when I had it on my thumb, a stem cell shot in my thumb, and it took a couple days. Got back and was still able to make the start, so I'm still holding out hope that that's kind of what happens here. I've been in predicaments before, there's so much that [the media doesn’t know] ... that just goes underneath the rug. Just little stuff like this, but obviously with this ... it is what it is."

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Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Yan Gomes walked by a bright, silver emblem which represented his personal joy and has sat in the middle of the Nationals clubhouse as a beacon of trash talk this spring. He stopped, then rubbed his shirtsleeve over it to maintain its gleam.

At first glance, the replica looks precisely like the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And, it’s central location in the clubhouse makes it impossible to miss, which is the point.

“That’s Yan flexing on all of us,” Max Scherzer said, shaking his head.

The trophy is to commemorate Gomes’ fantasy football victory from last year. No one will disclose the cost to enter, but it’s steep. So high that the team split into two leagues last season: The A group, populated by well-heeled veterans, and the B group, who do not have the same cash.

Three names are on the trophy: Gomes, batting practice pitcher Ali Modami, and, in a late addition, Trea Turner.

Gomes and Modami were the co-owners of the winning team. Turner was added to the trophy via trolling tape. His name is hand written and spread across the bottom of the trophy’s base, beneath Gomes and Modami. Why? This is Gomes’ way of simultaneously mocking and thanking Turner for his contribution to the championship after he made a bad trade which vaulted Gomes and Modami to the title.

“I had three good running backs,” Turner said. “So, I traded Nick Chubb, who was doing great at the time, George Kittle, and Carson Wentz for Deshaun Watson, Keenan Allen and John Brown. I needed wide receivers, so I gave up one of my running backs and tight ends for two wide receivers, basically, but...shouldn’t have done it.”

Nothing was formal about the split between who was in the A or B league. No service time requirements or particular stats. It was more about making a financial decision. Erick Fedde, commissioner of the B league, considered his personal fate before choosing.

“I didn’t need my girlfriend killing me for spending a lot of money on fantasy football,” Fedde said.

So, he organized the B league, mostly populated by what he called the “swing guys,” who were mostly young at the major-league level or still in the minor leagues. Carter Kieboom, Tanner Rainey, Jake Noll, Tyler Mapes and Scott Copeland were in the league. So was Javy Guerra, Joe Ross and Austin Voth. Among the biggest challenges? Organizing the draft.

“It was so difficult,” Fedde said. “We were trying to make sure we got the minor-league season done or the big-league guys that were either called up or they weren’t flying. We had a big-league day game like two days after the minor-league season ended, so hopefully everybody was home by then. That was the hardest part. I remember we did our group chat, we did picking names out of the hat with all the guys who were in the big leagues at the time then sent the video to everyone who was down in the minors still. It’s a lot of work being the commissioner of that league.”

Fedde was in four fantasy football leagues last season. He, similar to Turner, became partly responsible for delivering a championship via ill-advised trade in the Nationals B league.

“I made the bad trade this year to the champion,” Fedde said. “Copeland won. I gave up Tyreek Hill. Traded him away because I was like 0-4 to start the year. I needed healthy players. That ended up biting the league in the butt.”

Turner tried to defend his decision-making, which flipped the A league in Gomes’ favor, claiming a bad start did not push him into a panic move.

“I still to this day, I’ll argue for it because I gave up a strength of mine to improve a weakness,” Turner said. “It just didn’t work out. I’m not mad about it. He thinks it’s so funny to put me on that trophy, but he just got lucky.”

Did Turner know he would be on the trophy?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Turner said. “He texted me as soon as he won. I knew that was going to happen. He’s having the time of his life. I’ll let him enjoy it.”

Gomes again walked by the trophy later Wednesday and paused for a minute. He shot a look across the clubhouse, then moved on. Turner lurked with revenge on his mind.

“Next season is coming up here pretty quick,” Turner said. “He’s going to have to redo it all again or else he’s going to be wearing it himself.”

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Mark Lerner ribs Davey Martinez after walking in on his World Series ring fitting

Mark Lerner ribs Davey Martinez after walking in on his World Series ring fitting

The Nationals haven’t seen what their World Series rings will look like just yet, but on Wednesday players and coaches were fitted for the highly coveted jewelry they’ll be receiving during their first homestand in April.

Manager Davey Martinez’s ring sizing was caught on camera, and an unexpected guest arrived as he was trying a sample ring on.

Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner had to poke fun at his skipper, saying, "Oh no, no, no. He's not getting one. He was never on the list.” Martinez wasn’t recognized by the ring specialist—something that wasn’t a first for him this offseason despite being the reigning World Series-winning manager—but settled on a size-10 ring for his left index finger.

The Nationals are set to receive their championship rings April 4 before their contest with the New York Mets that afternoon.

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