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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