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Max Scherzer to miss World Baseball Classic

Max Scherzer to miss World Baseball Classic

Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer will miss the 2017 World Baseball Classic due to a stress fracture on the knuckle of his ring finger of his throwing hand. 

The Nationals announced that they expect the right-hander to be a full participant in spring training. 

Scherzer wrote a message on his Twitter page to give a more complete update on his finger. 

Scherzer, the 2016 NL Cy Young award winner, likely would have been the top starting pitcher for Team USA, joining the Rays' Chris Archer and the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman. 

The only other National on the roster is second baseman Daniel Murphy, who finished second in NL MVP voting in 2016. 

Related: Bryce Harper deadlifts 505 pounds, fans immediately freak out

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Howie Kendrick has no sympathy for Astros, criticizes Rob Manfred's handling of scandal

Howie Kendrick has no sympathy for Astros, criticizes Rob Manfred's handling of scandal

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Howie Kendrick has no sympathy for the Houston Astros.

Asked on Tuesday morning if he -- a veteran about to play his 15th season -- was concerned about how Houston’s scandal reflected on baseball at large, Kendrick explained his view in simple and direct terms. He also expressed his displeasure with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s handling of the situation.

“It doesn’t put baseball in a good light, and the Commissioner really hasn’t done a great job of trying to diffuse the situation, honestly,” Kendrick said. “But if you cheat, you cheat. There’s no fairness in that. Obviously you have a choice. You either choose to do it, or you don’t. And obviously they chose to do it, and they should have to live with those consequences. Nobody’s going to have any remorse for you. 

“And going out and putting out public service announcements and things like that, I don’t think that’s really cool. You got caught doing something. I think you should just be quiet, go about your business and let your play talk. If you weren’t doing it, and you’re honest that you weren’t doing it. We’ll find out this season. They’ve got a lot of really good players, and obviously they win without doing a lot of that stuff. The fact they actually got caught doing it, it just makes them look that much worse.”

Responses in the Nationals’ clubhouse have varied. Some players, like Starlin Castro, chose not to comment on the Astros’ situation. Ryan Zimmerman reiterated his concern about the integrity of the game being questioned. Max Scherzer advised reporters to walk down the hall and ask the Astros questions about their cheating. Sean Doolittle worried about what jobs may have been lost because of the cheating.

Kendrick was also asked if the 2017 title should be taken from the Astros. 

“I haven’t really thought about it that much. I’ve heard a lot of guys say they should take it away, let them keep their rings and stuff like that. That’s not my job. That’s the commissioner’s job. But with all the details out there, obviously it went from the top to bottom. As a player, some of those guys probably didn’t want to do it. But who do you go to at that point? You either follow along, even if you don’t agree with it, because you really don’t have an avenue to go to. I do believe there were guys that didn’t want to do it, but what are you going to do about it when 90 percent of the people were doing it. That’s all I got to say about that.”

With that, Kendrick was done and subjected to jabs from his teammates for his Forrest Gump-esque closing remark. No matter the end, he can be added to the list of those irritated with the Astros, and the commissioner. 

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Davey Martinez provides some clarity on the Nationals’ infield plans

Davey Martinez provides some clarity on the Nationals’ infield plans

When Davey Martinez fills in his lineup card on Opening Day, there are going to be many different ways he will be able to pencil in his infielders.

The Nationals manager provided some insight Monday on how he’ll be narrowing down those decisions. In his daily press conference with reporters, Martinez said he wants offseason addition Starlin Castro to focus on second base at least for the first few weeks of spring training.

“Right now, I just want him playing second base,” Martinez said. “Maybe towards the end of spring we’ll get him over to [third base] for a few games. He was put over there last year and he did well. We looked at his numbers and he did well over there. But I want to keep him at second base for right now, let him get his feet underneath him and get him going.”

If things go according to plan for the Nationals, top prospect Carter Kieboom will show promise at third base and Castro won’t need to get many reps there. But just in case Kieboom is slow to adapt to the position, Asdrúbal Cabrera will work out at third with Howie Kendrick slated to do so as well later this spring.

In the meantime, Kendrick will play primarily first and second base, Martinez said. However, the Nationals have a logjam at first with Eric Thames and Ryan Zimmerman already projecting as complementary platoon partners. It’s not yet apparent how Kendrick would get regular at-bats if Castro plays second every day and the Thames/Zimmerman combo is healthy entering the season.

To his credit, Castro is willing to play anywhere Martinez needs him. “I’m going to prepare…If you want me to play at third, if you want me to play at second,” he said in his first media scrum Sunday. “I just expect to be there, to try to keep myself healthy, and just play hard and do my best every day.”

Most of these comments from Martinez come as no surprise and only further emphasize the bigger question: How will Martinez slot whoever starts into his daily lineups?

If Juan Soto moves up to third in the order, the occupant of the cleanup spot is far from a given. Thames seems the most obvious candidate to do so on the days he starts, but that would mean the Nationals would bat three lefties in a row with Adam Eaton slated in at second.

Kendrick could be an option, yet he doesn’t have a spot in the field and won’t be expected to play every day at 36 years old. The only other candidate appears to be Castro, who hasn’t been much of a power hitter in his career but enjoyed a second-half surge in 2019 that was fueled by an emphasis on driving the ball.

Martinez is also entertaining the idea of pushing Trea Turner back from the leadoff spot and hitting him third. Just entertain the idea of this lineup for a second.

CF Victor Robles

RF Adam Eaton

SS Trea Turner

LF Juan Soto

2B Starlin Castro/Howie Kendrick

1B Ryan Zimmerman/Eric Thames

3B Carter Kieboom/Asdrúbal Cabrera

C Kurt Suzuki/Yan Gomes

Pitcher

This lineup is immediately deeper than the previous one with Soto staying at fourth and Castro being pushed back to fifth. The Nationals could then tinker with the order of the 5-6-7 hitters based on how they perform to start the season.

The idea only works, however, if Victor Robles shows signs of cutting down on his strikeout rate and getting on base more often. The centerfielder’s sprint speed of 29.3 feet-per-second is only a tick behind Turner’s rate of 30.4, so the Nationals wouldn’t lose the valuable base-stealing threat they’ve had atop the lineup over the last few years. It’s just a question of whether he takes a step forward in his sophomore season.

As for his veteran catching duo of Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes, Martinez noted that Gomes would be getting more playing time this season. The Nationals saw Gomes hit well down the stretch last year after receiving regular playing time while Suzuki nursed an elbow injury.

 “I like to think that we can do the same thing [as last year], but we got to be very careful,” Martinez said. “I know Suzuki looks good, he’s ready to go. But we got to be conscious of his injuries last year.”

Martinez suggested using a system where the catchers would take turns making a majority of the starts each week. He said that Suzuki would be working more with starter Patrick Corbin this spring to help them build a rapport after Gomes was the left-hander’s primary backstop in 2019.

There are still plenty more questions that will need to be answered before Martinez can start on that Opening Day lineup card, but his comments Monday provided an important step toward determining what those questions will be.

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