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Max Scherzer will not start Game 5 of the World Series because of neck spasms

Max Scherzer will not start Game 5 of the World Series because of neck spasms

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer will not pitch Game 5 of the World Series because of neck spasms, manager Davey Martinez surprisingly said pregame Sunday.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner felt neck tightness and spasms Saturday in his right trapezius muscle. When he woke up Sunday, it became worse -- causing Scherzer to “fall out of bed” to get up -- and prompting him to reach out to trainer Paul Menhart right away and explain he had a problem.

“He was in there with the training staff getting all kinds of treatment,” Martinez said of Scherzer’s actions Saturday. “We did all kinds of stuff. [Sunday], he woke up and right away texted Paul and said that he was really hurting. If you all know Max, obviously he pitched with a broken nose, he’s been hurt before, he’s fought through things. When he comes in and says he’s hurt this bad, he’s hurt.”

Joe Ross will start Game 5 against Houston ace Gerrit Cole. Ross pitched two innings in relief Oct. 25. He was left off the Wild-Card Game, National League Division Series and National League Championship Series rosters, but added to the World Series roster. 

Stephen Strasburg remains the Game 6 starter. Martinez is hopeful Scherzer can heal and pitch in relief in Game 6 in Houston or start Game 7, if necessary. Based on how he looked and what he said, the idea Scherzer is pitching in three days seems remote. 

“I’m as disappointed as I possibly could be in not being able to pitch tonight,” Scherzer said. “It’s Game 5 of the World Series. I’ve pitched through so much sh... crap in my career that it would be easy to pitch through at this point. This is literally impossible to do anything with.” 

Scherzer, 35, said he woke up Sunday completely locked up because of the neck spasms, which are muscular and related to nerve irritation. Scherzer was so rigid in a pregame press conference, he had to turn his shoulders to look right because he could not rotate his head. A Band-Aid covered the back of his neck where he received a Cortisone shot on Sunday morning which, he hopes, has a grand positive influence on his health in the next 48 hours. His wife, Erica, had to help him dress Sunday morning because he could not raise his right arm.

“In the moment I wake up, I couldn’t get out of bed,” Scherzer said. “It really hurt to get out of bed. Just basically fall out of bed, pick myself up with my left arm and tried to move around. Couldn’t even move my arm. I just knew at that point I was in a really bad spot.”

Sunday night will be a scramble. Ross made three September starts and threw no more than 85 pitches in any of them. Washington’s bullpen is rested. Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson have not worked much in the series because it included a day off and two blowouts. They pitched in Game 1 on Oct. 22 but have not pitched since. 

“[Saturday] I didn't use Joe and some of the other guys in preparation in case this would have happened,” Martinez said. “And hoping that he'd wake up [Sunday] and felt a lot better. He didn't.”

Martinez said Scherzer’s onset of neck spasms is not related to his prior back problems this season which caused two separate injured-list stints; Scherzer repeated the that information. Scherzer said Saturday his back problems were fully cleared, making Sunday’s announcement all the more surprising.

“The back issues are fine,” Scherzer said Saturday “All those back issues I have to really address in the offseason of how I'm going to train and everything. So I've been dreaming up different things I might be doing this December and January to really address that.”

Scherzer said Sunday he’s dealt with small neck spasms in the past which were often cleared via chiropractic treatment. On Aug. 1, 2017, Scherzer left the game against Miami after an inning when his neck locked up. Other spasms have occurred.

“This is the most severe one of all-time,” Scherzer said.

Did anything acute happen Saturday to cause Scherzer’s neck issue?

“He said he woke up like that [Saturday],” Martinez said. “And like I said, he spent all day getting treatment. And [Sunday] he just locked up. Just spasm, neck's jacked up. He was just -- he was in a bad place.”

Martinez described Scherzer as distraught, saying he is quiet and irritated with the outcome. Few expressed more joy throughout the Nationals’ postseason run than Scherzer. This is his second chance at winning a World Series title. After Washington beat St. Louis, he walked around by himself at times during the celebration with his fists clenched talking to no one in particular.

He sighed when he walked into the press conference room before taking his seat, looking as if someone put a pole up his back because he sat so straight and rigid. The only reason he plays -- to win the World Series -- had been taken away by an upset nerve and contorted neck muscles.

Sunday, he will be stuck in the dugout, forced to watch Ross and cross his fingers the Nationals can find a way to win. 

“I went around and talked to a bunch of the boys and explained what was going on,” Martinez said. “They were all upbeat. Every one of them said, ‘We got this. We'll pick him up.’ We've got Joe on the mound and we'll get them. And hopefully he comes back and helps us Game 6 or 7.”
 

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Report: MLB intends to propose season of around 50 games

Report: MLB intends to propose season of around 50 games

Major League Baseball intends to propose a plan to the MLB Players Association for a significantly shorter season in 2020, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Monday.

According to Passan, MLB envisions a season of about 50 regular-season games beginning in July. The league will continue discussing other options with players but believes its agreement in March to pay prorated salaries allows for it to dictate the shorter schedule, even without an MLBPA deal. 

The exact number of games under the proposal is still being considered, according to the report, but players would receive the full prorated amount of their salaries.

The 50-game range is less than half of what the players reportedly proposed to MLB on Sunday. MLBPA delivered a proposal for a 114-game season that would begin June 30, Passan reported. The players' proposal included the right for all players to opt out of the season, and a deferral of salaries if the 2020 postseason was canceled.

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This round of proposals comes after contention between the sides over pay cuts beyond the prorated salaries. MLB previously proposed a second pay cut in the form of tiered salaries, an offer players balked at. Players likely won't find MLB's newest idea favorable either, as they reportedly want a season of at least 100 games.

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Max Scherzer, Sean Doolittle provide powerful voices during baseball’s search for answers

Max Scherzer, Sean Doolittle provide powerful voices during baseball’s search for answers

Sean Doolittle was willing to talk about it. The topic was union business. He’s focused, detailed and informed when any player-related financial topic is put in front of him. Being prepared is his process in general. Before Doolittle dispatches a thread of tweets, he reads multiple background sources, formulates his thoughts, looks for spaces that may lack clarity when dispatched in public.

On this particular topic, back in spring training when everything was more hopeful, he deferred. He asked if Max Scherzer had talked about the subject broached by a reporter. Told Scherzer had not, Doolittle said he would prefer to wait until Scherzer spoke. They had discussed the idea prior. So, they were working in tandem.

The pair has operated individually when addressing their personal performance or as team spokespeople when discussing the state of the Nationals. In this new setting, when a negotiating battle is underway between the union and league, and a pandemic has hurtled the sport into unprecedented territory, the two have become one of the most prominent duos in the league.

Scherzer dropped the largest statement of the negotiating period when he tweeted last week. A member of the union’s powerful eight-person executive subcommittee, and the best player among that group, Scherzer’s decree the players would not accept a further pay cut rattled the sport. An out-of-town announcer railed against the stance. The league received a large hint of the players’ coming counter-proposal. The union, through Scherzer’s rarely used social media account, had spoken.

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Days later, Doolittle countered his employer when tweeting about the Nationals players’ desire to step in and pay minor-league players in the organization. Doolittle’s Twitter account is often an outlet for his thoughts on topics from social justice to baseball matters to, of course, Star Wars. He uses the medium for consistent and steady interaction with the public. Scherzer operates differently. He stays off social media -- for the most part. He composed just four original tweets in the two years before delivering a missive via screenshot last week.

Soon, both will be gone. Doolittle is in the final year of his contract. Scherzer has one more year on his seven-year, $210 million deal which has evolved into a bargain framed by staggering figures.

Doolittle will be 34 years old on Sept. 26. Scherzer turns 36 years old on July 27th. Their statesmen positions in the game are likely to last beyond their playing careers. Doolittle will walk into a flood of post-career media offers. Scherzer’s future could include being the executive director of the MLBPA. He is the necessary blend of informed, passionate, and obstinate.

Both are voices to be heard in this climate. They understand the landscape in front of and behind them. Managing messages within the union and out in the public eye are divergent projects which simultaneously influence each other. Being the elders -- the viejos -- on the team brings a specific responsibility separate from overall union business. They need to be the house protectors then.

And know they are working in conjunction. An avenue over here for one, an avenue over there for another, making two of the most prominent local voices two of the most powerful across the sport.

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