Max Scherzer hoped he would be able to start tonight against the New York Mets after he sat out one turn in the rotation while recovering from the neck issue he’s dealt with on and off with since his abbreviated, one-inning outing against the Marlins in Miami’s Marlins Park last month.
“I’m a couple days behind,” Scherzer told reporters Wednesday in Houston, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes.
“It’s just a tight band in my neck, and it’s still locking up on me. Nothing to worry about. We’re in an order of days, not weeks.”
So when will the 33-year-old Cy Young candidate return to the Nationals’ rotation?
“He’s going to pitch in the near future,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning.
“I’m not worried about if it’s Friday, Saturday, Sunday or whatever,” Rizzo added, “we’ve got that doubleheader on Sunday also, so we’re going to need an extra pitcher. But, as long as Max is capable of pitching, that’s the thing that’s important to me.”
Dusty Baker wasn’t willing to commit to any specific game for Scherzer’s return to the rotation when he spoke to reporters in advance of the series finale with the Astros in Minute Maid Park on Thursday night.
“That kind of depends on Max,” Baker explained. “I think he’s supposed to throw some today, we’ll see. If not, then we’ve got to go to Plan — we’re already on Plan T, we’ve got to go to Plan [U].”
[ed. note - “Baker said ‘Plan S’, but who counts backwards in plans, right? He was, of course, speaking extemporaneously.”]
Scherzer told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Byron Kerr, that he was confident he would be back sooner rather than later.
“It’s not all gone,” Scherzer said of the lingering neck tightness.
“Moving from, say, where it was still grabbing on me to it’s just stiff. That is usually a good progress point... in that it usually goes away pretty quick.”
“I’m not concerned. Now it’s a matter of which day I am back.”
A.J. Cole, who’s lost three straight starts in the majors, with a 6.75 ERA, eight walks, 16 Ks, and a .270/.361/.540 line against in 16 innings over that stretch, returned to Triple-A Syracuse after his last start for the Nationals on August 13th, and made one start in which he gave up seven hits, four walks, and four earned runs in four innings with the Nats’ top minor league affiliate.
He’ll make his fifth start of the season for the Nationals tonight, in the series opener with the New York Mets.
If Scherzer can’t go in one of the two games in Sunday’s doubleheader in D.C., Baker said the Nationals could turn to top pitching prospect Erick Fedde again.
Fedde, 24, has made two major league starts already this season, giving up 18 hits, six walks and 11 runs in 9 1⁄3 innings pitched in tough matchups against the Rockies and Cubs.
“Yeah, that’s a possibility, you know,” Baker said of potentially calling the right-hander up again. “Let’s get there first.”