You really couldn’t have a better role model for young pitchers than Max Scherzer. Maybe not the things he actually does (like 60-pitch bullpens out of the gate in Spring Training, because that’s just — like, you know, he’s different), but the way Scherzer works and tries to keep improving provides a great example for the Erick Feddes and A.J. Coles of the world, who are in camp competing for an opportunity to pitch alongside the three-time Cy Young award winner in Washington’s 2018 rotation.
Nationals’ skipper Dave Martinez has talked early this Spring about what he’s seen from the 33-year-old Scherzer, who’s healthy and 100% this time around, after an injury-filled 2017 campaign in which he still managed to repeat as the NL’s Cy Young winner.
To say he’s been impressed would be an understatement, of course.
Though he knew what Scherzer was capable, it’s different seeing it up close, knowing that you’re going to be managing him and — at some point — will have to take — or try to take, the ball out of his hand.
“I know for a fact that to get the ball from Scherzer... it’s going to be tough,” Martinez said when he was asked for his thoughts on the trend in the league towards lifting your starter before they face hitters a third time around.
How will he handle his starters? “I’m not that guy or that manager where third time around the order let’s just get somebody fresh in there. Sometimes these guys are really good the third time around, they get stronger, so we’ll just play it by ear and see how they do.”
Now that he’s watching Scherzer and the other Nationals’ starters work up close, he has a better idea, already, of the work that goes into making them the pitchers they are.
“Oh gosh, it’s funny cause I can tell that they compete every day and they all want to be the best,” the first-time skipper explained after watching Scherzer throw for the first time, “... and that’s, for me, that’s awesome.”
“Perfect example, yesterday, I’m watching Scherzer go out there for the first time and he’s facing hitters. That’s pretty awesome.”
Scherzer actually threw 60 pitches in his first official bullpen this Spring, talking to those around him, according to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, and telling them which batter he was imagining he was facing, running through different scenarios, counts, and situations.
Is a 60-pitch bullpen the first time out... unusual?
“Max himself is unusual,” Martinez joked on Sunday afternoon, after the third day of Spring Training.
“I’m just glad that — like I said, I’m just glad that he’s here, and I get to see him pitch every five days. That’s awesome. He competes, and when he does his bullpen, he’s competing. I don’t know who he was facing when he threw the 60 pitches, but he was facing hitters, and he was real adamant about getting them out.”
“That was in my normal routine for how I get ready for the season,” Scherzer said of that first bullpen session when he talked reporters, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.
“Sometimes, right now, this is the toughest throwing you experience as you continue to ramp up through the first bullpens, the first live BPs, the first games. There’s a lot of throwing here. So for me, I always like to get on the mound, feel some fatigue and kind of work through it. I see benefits on that by the end of Spring Training.”
Martinez, who’s been around and seen things over the course of his 16-year career as a player and ten seasons as a bench coach, was asked if he had any comps for Scherzer among all the pitchers he’s seen.
“The one guy that stands out in my mind is Randy Johnson,” he said. “Kind of an unusual guy. Very competitive. Very — was hard to get the ball out of his hands.
“But watching those two guys, and watching Randy step on the mound every five days — you knew what you were up against, I mean, it was impressive. He wasn’t going to give in.
“He knew what he wanted to do, he wanted to strike everybody out, just like Max. I think Max sometimes feels like he doesn’t need his defense out there, and that’s something that, going forward, that maybe that’s — defense helps, so he doesn’t need to feel like he has to strike guys out, but that’s who he is, and I love it. I really do. And just talking to him, and seeing how — everything is a competition with him, it’s great.”