Washington Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez joked while announcing that Max Scherzer would get the nod in today’s season opener, that he essentially made the decision, “... the day I got the job.”
It wasn’t a tough decision at all to go with the 33-year-old right-hander who in 2017 won his third career Cy Young award and second straight NL Cy Young, going (16-6) in 32 starts with a 2.51 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 55 walks (2.47 BB/9), 268 Ks (12.02 K/9), and a .177/.247/.319 line against in 200 2⁄3 innings.
“Yeah, it was pretty easy,” Martinez told reporters before Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins in the nation’s capital.
Asked what he liked about Scherzer as the Opening Day starter, Martinez said it was about Scherzer’s demeanor on the mound.
“The way he competes,” he said.
“I’ll tell you a story. My first day of Spring Training, he’s throwing a side [session] and I watched this guy throw 60 pitches, first day, just blowing what we call gas, which is throwing really hard, and already calling getting guys outs, so he already had gotten eight guys out, and I’m sitting there going, ‘This is Day 1.’
“He was just jacked up about his side. And so that’s a testament to what he thinks and how he feels.”
As excitable as he is at times on the mound, Scherzer is a calm presence on the hill, which is something that could help with all the pomp and circumstance of the season opener.
He did, however, admit that even at this point in his career, with three Opening Day starts with the Nationals on his resume, there are still some jitters when you take the mound for the first game of the season.
“Jitters, yes, because you’re anxious – not out of nervousness, just anxious [because] you want to get the season going,” Scherzer said.
“We’ve been grinding, a lot of us – for me, since December – for this day. Four months later, here we are.”
Once the game starts, Scherzer will be back in his element, but there are things to deal with on Opening Day that are unique to the opener.
“There’s hoopla,” Scherzer said.
“You got to be able to deal with it. There’s going to be a big American flag out there and you got to … warm up around it. It’s just part of baseball. You got to be able to work around all the little elements and distractions.”
Scherzer and the rest of the Nationals will have to deal with the weather as well, with cloudy skies above Great American Ball Park in the forecast this afternoon.
“As a starting pitcher, you have to be ready to pitch in any type of weather. Cold, hot, rainy, windy – you have to be ready for it all,” Scherzer said. It’s supposed to be around 60° in the Reds’ home on Thursday, so the righty should be happy with that temperature based on his comments on Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve pitched five years in Detroit, Opening Days, and that’s 30 degrees,” Scherzer said. “I’ve pitched in much colder than this. If we’re in the 50s, I’ll be happy.”
While the Nationals are projected to win the NL East again (for the third straight season) and return to the postseason for the fifth time in the last seven seasons, no one in Washington is taking anything for granted, and Scherzer said he was focused on his first start and nothing more right now.
“I’m just ready for Game 1,” he explained.
“You start getting ahead of yourself — I know everybody wants to talk playoffs, but if you don’t come out here in Game 1 and take care of business, it doesn’t matter about anything else.”