PHILADELPHIA -- Max Scherzer will not pitch Sunday.
That’s the situation in its most simplistic terms. Scherzer had an MRI on the middle of his back Wednesday during the All-Star break. It came back negative, though he remains sore. Anibal Sanchez will start in his place Sunday in Philadelphia. The team says it does not know when Scherzer will start next, but he’s hopeful for Tuesday in Baltimore.
“Tuesday's realistic,” Scherzer said following the Nationals’ 4-0 win Friday. “That's what we're hoping for. That's where we're just in a matter of days here. This is not a major thing. We know exactly what this is. We know it's muscular. The pause for concern is that we tried to get it going for the Kansas City start and it wasn't able to recover from the Kansas City start. Now you got to go on a little different protocol to make sure I'm 100 percent right before I step on the mound again.”
Whenever he returns to the mound, it will be following a prolonged break. Scherzer threw 103 pitches July 6 when his back was bothering him. He did not pitch in the All-Star Game. His next earliest opportunity to pitch is July 16 in Baltimore. That would be 10 days after his last start and the equivalent of a full injured list stint. But, manager Davey Martinez would not commit to the date.
“He’s sore, so we talked and we decided just push him back a couple days and see how he feels,” Martinez said before the game. “We’re at a point now, where he went through an unbelievable run and we’re just trying to take care of him.”
Scherzer threw Friday up to 75 feet during the Nationals’ brief team workout, a staple following the All-Star break.
“He felt better,” Martinez said.
The Nationals and Scherzer originally anticipated Scherzer not pitching in the All-Star Game would remedy his back issue.
“What he did the last four, five weeks was incredible,” Martinez said. “When he’s ready, like I said, I don’t want this to linger, I want it to go away. If he needs a couple days -- right now, coming off the break, everybody’s strong and healthy, we can figure this out.”
Scherzer’s back issue started in Detroit following his June 30 start against his former team. He was able to manage the issue well enough to make his final start before the All-Star break. Scherzer did not mention a possibility of missing his Sunday start when talking with reporters Monday or Tuesday at the All-Star festivities. He expected to throw on the field pregame Tuesday before the All-Star Game. He chose not to because of his back.
The pre-All-Star break workload for Scherzer was hefty. He led the National League in innings pitched and pitches thrown. Scherzer was the only National League pitcher to throw more than 2,000 pitches this season before the schedule paused -- though that’s not abnormal work for someone annually leading the league in such categories.
“Everything else on my body feels great,” Scherzer said. “The fact that I was able to go out there and make a start and have something tight and not compromise my shoulder or elbow, that, knock on wood, was what we were really concerned about. So, that's what you're really worried about. The fact some other little muscles in the back tightened up after that start, that's just what happened. So, going forward,I absolutely trust everybody in the medical staff, their opinions, their diagnosis what this and how soon I should be ready to be back on the mound.”
Scherzer put together the best month of his career when he roared through June. High-end starts at the end of May and start of July bookended the June push to put Scherzer into the lead -- in the eyes of many -- for the National League Cy Young Award. He led the National League in strikeouts and WAR for pitchers when play began Friday. He’s third in ERA, batting average against and WHIP.
A distinct point of pride for Scherzer is never going on the injured list during his 12-year career. He’s managed small issues the last year-plus, including a stiff neck and broken nose, but rarely has missed a start. Scherzer has made at least 30 starts every season since 2009. When his next one will be is unknown.
“This is not something to be overly concerned about,” Scherzer said. “I know what it takes to toe the rubber. You have to absolutely be able to get through the pitch. I thought I was able to get through the pitch and get through the ball against Kansas City, felt fine, obviously didn't hurt myself though this other little muscle tightened up on me and just hasn't relaxed. I know the feeling of what it's going to take to get back on the mound and get completely though the ball. Like I said, we're only a matter of days. This isn't a long-term injury.”
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