Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez made it all-but official earlier this week, once Max Scherzer got through a second simulated outing and felt good coming out of the 64-pitch sim game against his own teammates.
Barring any setbacks, the Nats’ 35-year-old, three-time Cy Young award-winning ace would start the series finale with the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park.
“He felt good, talked to him in the weight room, everything went according to plan, so the plan is that he’s ready for Thursday,” Martinez told reporters.
As well as the Nationals have done with Scherzer starting just twice since the start of July (26-16 since July 1st), the return of the Nats’ ace, who’ll take the mound with a 10-outing unbeaten streak going, over which he’s put up a 1.17 ERA, 11 walks (1.43 BB/9), 102 Ks (13.30 K/9), and a .176/.220/.276 line against in 69 innings, is a big addition to an impressive group of starters.
“There’s no secret of why we’re really here,” Martinez said. “Our starting pitching has carried us throughout the year, and to not only have not the three guys [Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Stephen Strasburg], but [Aníbal] Sánchez, after he came off the IL, pitching the way he’s pitched, and then the two young guys [Joe Ross and Erick Fedde] doing what they’re doing right now, it’s great. They give us a chance to win every night and that’s all we can ask.”
As the second-year skipper explained earlier this month, however, Scherzer is going to be limited to some extent in his few starts off the IL, after missing time with scapulothoracic bursitis and then a mild rhomboid strain.
“If we decided to pitch him in a game it wouldn’t be 100 pitches right away,” Martinez said.
“I can tell you that right now. We’ve really got to be very careful where we’re at with him right now.”
“There’s no hard pitch count on him,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning.
“Davey will look at it. Max will look at it, and do with him as they see fit. He’s certainly not going to go deep into a ballgame his first time out and I think that we’ll err on the side of caution, even if we have to tie Max up and remove him physically from the game, which sometimes has to happen.
“But again, his first time back, we have to stair-step him and build him up to pitch deep into games like he’s used to doing, his 115-pitch type of starts, but that won’t happen right out of the chute.”
How deep will Scherzer go tonight? More importantly, how will he react after returning to live action after the start?
It’s just going to be good to see Scherzer back on a big league mound, even if it’s not for as long as we’re used to seeing him out there.
And more importantly, Scherzer can get past the frustration of having to sit and watch the Nationals as he did while he has been working his way back.
“He wants to pitch,” Martinez said last week, “and I don’t blame him, and I’ll be honest with you, I want him to pitch, but we have to be smart and we want to make sure that when he comes back he’s back with us for the rest of the season.”