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Max Scherzer knuckles down, comes up with new fastball grip

Max Scherzer knuckles down, comes up with new fastball grip

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida -- Max Scherzer has come to grips with a finger injury – by coming up with a new, unusual grip for his fastball.

The Washington Nationals ace won the NL Cy Young Award last season despite a stress fracture on his right ring finger in the second half. The problem didn't totally heal during the winter, so Scherzer is trying something different this spring.

"It is strange that I am throwing with three fingers," Scherzer said.

Sure is.

His normal fastball grip – the one used by nearly every pitcher in the pros – employs two fingers on top of the ball with the ring finger bent along the side, providing stability in the hand.

That formation aggravates Scherzer's injury by pressing the ball onto the knuckle. Earlier this spring, he straightened the ring finger, placing it on top of the ball along with his middle and index finger, a grip that alleviates the pressure and pain.

"What else am I going to do?" Scherzer said. "I'm willing to do it. I want to do it. It's just part of what I've got to go out there and do -- to pitch right now."

Scherzer figures that altering his grip affords the knuckle some ability to heal while also allowing him to continue to build up arm strength. It's only the fastball grip that bothers the knuckle.

"If they didn't let me do this then I'd be sitting here trying to test the two-finger grip left and right, and probably be hurting it even more," Scherzer said. "If you let me throw it three fingers, I'm actually healing."

On Tuesday, Scherzer faced live hitters for the first time this spring, throwing a live batting practice session to minor league hitters on one of the complex's back fields prior to the Nationals' game against Boston.

With manager Dusty Baker and general manager Mike Rizzo looking on, Scherzer worked from both the windup and the stretch, simulating two innings of action.

"It felt good to actually get out there and face hitters, have them swing at stuff, going through my routine, warming up in between innings," Scherzer said. "That's all fun."

Scherzer threw 44 pitches during the outing, the majority of which were fastballs.

The Nationals didn't have a radar gun present, but Scherzer said he didn't sense a drop in velocity with the three-fingered grip. He said it seemed to him the ball had the same spin as it normally did with a two-finger grip.

"It looked good to me," new Nationals catcher Matt Wieters said. "It came out of his hand well and had good carry."

Scherzer doesn't know the timeline for his next action and wouldn't commit to the next step, which could be a simulated game or even Grapefruit League action.

"We don't have a target day because we don't know how he's going to come out of this," Baker said. "We'll see how he comes out of this."

The 32-year-old Scherzer went 20-7 last season with a 2.96 ERA and a major league-leading 284 strikeouts. He also won the 2013 AL Cy Young with Detroit.

MORE NATIONALS: Report: Nationals sign John Lannan to minor league deal

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Anthony Rendon misses fourth straight game

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Anthony Rendon misses fourth straight game

The Washington Nationals fell to the Colorado Rockies 9-5 Wednesday to close out a six-game road trip. Here's the latest Nats and Rockies news. 

Player Notes: 

NATIONALS:

Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez allowed six runs on nine hits over five innings Wednesday, his season record falling to 0-3. He'll get another chance to get his first win of 2019 next Monday against the Cardinals

Juan Soto launched his fourth home run of the season in Wednesday's losing effort, a two-run shot in the third inning off Rockies starter German Marquez. It was a quiet day at the plate otherwise for the 20-year old, going 0-3 with a walk in his four other plate appearances.

Ryan Zimmerman sat out Wednesday's game after hurting his heel making a leap catch Tuesday. Nats manager Davey Martinez said Zimmerman was gonna get a day off regardless, but added the heel was still bothering Zimmerman "a little bit."

Anthony Rendon also missed out as he continues his recovery from an elbow injury sustained last Saturday. Martinez said Rendon was available to pinch-hit Wednesday, which he did not, and there's hope Rendon can play Friday after Thursday's off-day. Jake Noll earned his first MLB start at third base Wednesday with Rendon sitting out.  

Relief pitcher Justin Miller has begun a rehab assignment at High-A Potomac. Miller is on the 10-day injured list with a lower back strain.

ROCKIES:

Several Rockies had excellent days at the plate Wednesday. Charlie Blackmon launched his third homer of the year in the fourth inning, Nolan Arenado drove in three runs and David Dahl chipped in with three hits, an RBI and a run scored.

German Marquez earned his third win of the season with seven innings of three-run ball Wednesday. Marquez allowed eight hits and walked two, striking out seven Nationals.

Colorado activated former National Daniel Murphy off the 10-day IL for Wednesday's game. Murphy went 1-for-4 in his first game back from a fractured finger, and almost got run over by racing mascots (we're not kidding). Another former Nat, Ian Desmond, was given a day off Wednesday.

The Rockies optioned pitcher Jeff Hoffman to Triple-A Albuquerque after he allowed four runs over five innings in the Nats' win over Colorado Tuesday.

Injuries:

3B Anthony Rendon: Elbow hit by pitch, sidelined

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, 10-day IL

RP Justin Miller: Back, 10-day IL

SS Trea Turner: Finger, 10-day IL

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, 10-day IL

Coming Up:

Friday, 4/26: Padres @ Nationals, 7:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Saturday, 4/27: Padres @ Nationals, 4:05 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Sunday, 4/28: Padres @ Nationals, 1:35 p.m. ET, Nationals Park 

Source: Rotoworld

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Nationals' pitching staff rocked in Colorado as Nats close out ugly road trip

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Nationals' pitching staff rocked in Colorado as Nats close out ugly road trip

The Washington Nationals lost to the Colorado Rockies, 9-5, Wednesday afternoon and fell to 11-12 on the season. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The Anibal Sanchez experiment is not going well so far.

The veteran right-hander came to Washington over the winter fresh off a fantastic season in Atlanta, one that was an aberration from previous years and may have extended his career. The Nationals hoped he would be much more like his 2018 version and not the guy he was from 2015 through 2017. 

But through five starts, the results have not been pretty, and Wednesday was his worst game yet. Sanchez got rocked for six earned runs on nine hits and five walks in five innings of work. His season ERA sits at 6.00 and he has 16 walks in 27 total innings.

The early returns on the Nats rotation have not been great. Patrick Corbin is their only starter with an ERA below 4.00. But Sanchez has been far and away the weakest link.

The Nats closed out their road trip with a 2-4 mark. Both series were against teams with losing records. They have lost three of their past four series overall.

2. Adam Eaton also had a rough day. His worst moment was in the bottom of the third, when Raimel Tapia knocked a bases-clearing double over his head in right field. 

Eaton appeared to misjudge the ball by stepping in too far. He jumped in an attempt to make up for it with a leaping grab, only to have the ball sail past him and to the wall. Though Victor Robles sprinted over to back him up, Eaton made the play look even worse by giving up on it and doubling over with his hands on his knees in frustration.

Just one frame later, Eaton struck out with the bases loaded to end the top of the fourth. He went 1-for-5 on the day with his lone hit a single in the top of the ninth.

Eaton also had a minor injury scare. While running out a grounder in the first, he slowed down and appeared to be limping. He was then shown on TV chatting with trainer Paul Lessard in the dugout. 

3. Because this is the 2019 Nationals, the bullpen of course played a factor and once again it was an adventure for Trevor Rosenthal.

Per usual, he was pumping heat but with zero control. He began the eighth inning by hitting Charlie Blackmon and finished the frame with three runs allowed on two hits and a walk. Of his 31 pitches, only 16 were strikes and three were wild. 

Those three runs were costly because the Nats scored two in the ninth and left runners on the corners. If Rosenthal had pitched a clean eighth, it would have been a one-run game.

Rosenthal has allowed runs in six of his seven appearances this season. He now leads the majors with five wild pitches.  

Rosenthal remains one of the Nats' highest upside relief options, so it may pay off down the road if they show patience in him. But it continues to be a disaster just about every time he takes the mound.

4. It wasn't all bad for the Nats. Juan Soto, who fouled a pitch off his right ankle in Tuesday's game, played in this one and launched his fourth homer of the season over the right field fence. He also drew a walk.

Jake Noll made the first start of his MLB career and landed his first hit. He rifled a double down the left field line in the second inning to score Matt Adams. 

Noll started at third base, which was a bit of a strange sight. By now everyone knows of him as the guy who looks like Ryan Zimmerman; now he's playing his old position?

5. The Rockies got a key piece back in their lineup, a guy who is a familiar face to Nats fans. Wednesday was Daniel Murphy's return from a fractured left finger. 

The injury gave him a four-to-six week recovery timeline, but he came back a few days early. Perhaps that can be taken as a sign of hope for Trea Turner, who remains out with a broken finger himself.

Murphy did some damage against his former team. He singled in his first at-bat off Sanchez, then walked and scored in the third inning. He also moved a runner over on a lineout in the fourth that contributed to a run.

Murphy's best highlight, though, came in between innings when he barely avoided disaster while running onto the field during the Rockies' equivalent of the Presidents Race.

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