WASHINGTON, D.C.: Dusty Baker made the official announcement: Stephen Strasburg will face the Cubs in Game 1 of Washington and Chicago’s NLDS matchup Friday night in Nationals Park.
It was pretty much expected before it was official, but Baker told reporters the ‘09 No. 1 overall pick was the choice, and updated everyone on the status of Max Scherzer, who is working his way back from a hamstring tweak with an eye on either Game 2 or (more likely now) Game 3 with the Cubbies.
“Stras is going in the first game,” Baker said this morning in a press conference in the nation’s capital, “... and we still haven’t decided on the second or third game, and a lot of it depends on our evaluation of Scherzer.”
Baker said Scherzer was scheduled to throw a bullpen today, and “... a lot of it depends on how he looks and how he feels, and so we’ll let you know later.”
Scherzer was supposed to throw a bullpen on Wednesday, but didn’t, which Baker said was the team’s decision.
“We didn’t want him to test it yesterday,” Baker explained.
“Every day is important when you have a nagging injury. Every day is important for our trainers to evaluate it, put hands on him and see if he’s still sore or if he’s feeling great.”
Asked if he was motivated to start Scherzer in the second game of the NLDS so that he could potentially pitch again in Game 5, if necessary, Baker said, “No,” adding that they understood what it would mean to go in the second rather than the third game.
“I mean we realize that if he pitched Game 2 that he could probably pitch Game 5 if necessary, we realize that, but is that worth taking a chance if you get past the first round and then are you jeopardizing the second round? So you have to kind of weigh both, but the health of Max, I think, is No. 1.”
Scherzer, however, didn’t throw a bullpen session in Nationals Park today, as numerous media outlets noted after keeping a careful watch on the 33-year-old’s workout.
Scherzer's walking back to the dugout, having not thrown in the bullpen. Nothing official, but sure looks like Gio in Game 2.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) October 5, 2017
Scherzer is heading back to the dugout. He did not throw a bullpen session.— Todd Dybas (@Todd_Dybas) October 5, 2017
Baker said he would make the announcement on the Nationals’ Game 2 starter before the series opener starts, though there are reports out there already saying that it will be Gio Gonzalez in Game 2.
Gio Gonzalez will start Game 2, according to source familiar with decision. #Nats don't want to risk pushing Max Scherzer too quickly.— Mark Zuckerman (@MarkZuckerman) October 5, 2017
As for Strasburg, Baker was asked, first, how the right-hander reacted to the fact that he missed out on the Postseason last October when he landed on the DL late with an elbow issue that was eventually diagnosed as a partial tear of the pronator tendon. It was the second time in the Nationals’ three trips to the NLDS that Strasburg was not part of the rotation.
Strasburg’s reaction to the news that he would start Game 1?
“No. 1, he was very disappointed,” Baker said of Strasburg’s reaction to not being able to get in 2016, “but he doesn’t really show disappointment or happiness, either way really, cause I called him in before I got here, and I just said, ‘Hey, man, you’re starting Game 1, you probably figured that,’ and he had that same look when he left my office as when he came in. It's the truth, I swear. Anybody who knows him — man, I thought he was going to be like, ‘Yeah!’ [pumps fist]. He was just [shrugs shoulders]. So he was extremely happy.” [laughter]