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Max Scherzer creeps closer to making his next start

Max Scherzer creeps closer to making his next start

WASHINGTON -- Closer.

Max Scherzer threw a second simulation game Saturday. It went well, lasted 64 pitches, four innings and was delivered under awkward circumstances while a Q&A session with Nationals broadcasters blared through the stadium speakers.

Scherzer was engaged. He struck out Yan Gomes, then spiked a ball to the ground while on the mound. He circled the mound, jogged in and out of the dugout, tolerated the circumstances. Mike Rizzo, Davey Martinez, Paul Menhart and trainer Paul Lessard were among the viewers. 

“He wants to be on the mound,” Martinez said. “He wants to help us win. But this is part of it. He’s going to help us win. This is part of it. And hopefully [Sunday] he wakes up, feels really good, and then we’ll go from there.”

Scherzer could be back Thursday in Pittsburgh. The usual “ifs” apply here. If he feels well Sunday, if he throws a bullpen session Monday, if he feels well Tuesday, his first start since July 25 could come against the Pirates. 

“We’re trying to schedule everything as if: Today he pitched,” Martinez said. “He’s got five days. So he’ll be on his regular routine.”

If Scherzer pitches Thursday, the Nationals could manipulate his future schedule to give him seven starts to close the season, including a start against the Mets, two against the Braves, one against the Phillies and have him be ready for an Oct. 1 wild-card start, if necessary. 

However, the extended time away because of scapula and rhomboid injuries will snap Scherzer’s decade-long streak of making at least 30 starts. He’s made 20 so far this season.

The Nationals remain locked into his long-term health. Scherzer will be on a pitch count -- around 75-80 -- when he does return. If he comes through that first start well, he should be close to full strength from then on. At least, that’s the hope and premise for Martinez.

Scherzer’s return will carry dual benefits. First, it will be a boost to the contending Nationals, who are 11 games over .500 for the first time this season. Second, it will end the debates between Martinez and Scherzer about the injury timeline.

“I can’t wait,” Martinez said. “I want to see Max Scherzer on the mound pitching for the Nationals. He’s never had this before. It’s something new for him. So we’re all anxious for him to get back on the mound and help us win.”

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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have "probably the deepest rotation in baseball

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have "probably the deepest rotation in baseball

By signing Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha this week, the Mets have built out quite the collection of starting pitchers. 

Porcello and Wacha will join Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz in New York's starting rotation, a group general manager Brodie Van Wagenen thinks quite highly of. 

"There was a lot talked about our lack of starting pitching depth over the last couple of weeks," Van Wagenen said on SNYtv Thursday. "I think that story has changed, and I think that we're probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball."

Considering the Mets share a division with the Nationals, who still boast a starting rotation headlined by Max Scherzer, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, this is a pretty bold statement by Van Wagenen. 

Obviously he's the general manager and he has to say positive things about the club he's putting together. But to say those exact words on the heels of a rival winning a World Series because of their rotation? 

The Mets will host the Nationals in the first series of the season starting on March 26, so we may not have to wait long for these two rotations to face off. 

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Nationals prospect Sterling Sharp selected by Marlins in Rule 5 Draft

Nationals prospect Sterling Sharp selected by Marlins in Rule 5 Draft

The Nationals' No. 13 overall prospect is no longer in the organization, and it's not because of a trade that Washington made.

That's because the Miami Marlins selected pitcher Sterling Sharp with the No. 3 overall pick during Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Sharp was susceptible to being drafted after the Nationals chose not to protect him by placing the right-hander on their 40-man roster.

The Marlins will pay Washington $100,000 for Sharp. The 24-year-old most remain on Miami's 25-man MLB roster for the entirety of the 2020 season or he will be offered back for $50,000.

Sharp, a 22nd round pick in the 2016 draft, made just nine starts for the Nationals Double-A affiliate Harrisburg in 2019 due to an oblique injury. His numbers were not especially eye-popping, as he posted a 3.99 ERA with an 8.2 K/9 ratio.

His performance in the Arizona Fall League was considerably better, where he put up a 1.50 ERA in six starts.

Sharp is incredibly athletic and could have played college basketball, according to MLB.com's Pipeline. Standing 6-foot-4, Sharp is known for his sinker and high ground-ball rate. In 2018, his last season fully healthy, he finished with 59.7 percent ground-ball rate, good for a Top 10 finish in all of the minors and the highest among qualified starters in the Nationals' farm system.

A three-pitch starter, Sharp has a solid changeup in his arsenal to go along with a low 90s fastball and his sinker.

Expected to make his MLB debut in 2020, Sharp could very well face his former team next season. As a divisional opponent, the Marlins will face the Nationals 19 times next season.

The Nationals did, however, select a prospect during the Minor League portion of the draft. Washington added switch-hitting shortstop Manuel Geraldo from the Giants system, who hit .255 with five home runs and 53 RBI in Double-A.

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