Max Scherzer ended up on the Injured List twice in 2019, missing time with scapulothoracic bursitis and a mild rhomboid strain during the regular season, and he was scratched from a potential Game 6 start in the World Series with a nerve issue in his neck, but he finished the campaign with a solid outing in Game 7 of the Fall Classic.
Scherzer’s start in the series finale wrapped up a postseason run which saw the 35-year-old, twelve-year veteran go (3-0) in six games, (five starts), and 30 innings pitched, over which he put up a 2.40 ERA, a 3.98 FIP, 15 walks, 37 Ks, and a .193/.290/.330 line against.
Scherzer finished the regular season with a 2.92 ERA, a 2.45 FIP, 33 walks (1.72 BB/9), 243 Ks (12.69 K/9), and a .222/.266/.371 line against in 27 starts and 172 1⁄3 IP.
So, how does it feel to be a champion?
“It’s great,” Scherzer said of his second trip to and first win in the World Series.
“You’re at a loss for words, because I mean, that’s what you dream of — not since I’ve been in the big leagues, ever since you’ve been a little kid. You dream of pitching in the World Series and winning the World Series, and to have that dream come true, it doesn’t even mean — as much as it means for all of our teammates, but where I grew up, all my friends and family, it means just as much to them as well, so it’s been a heck of a year, good 2019 for me.”
It also meant a lot to the fans in the nation’s capital.
“That’s the stuff you don’t realize about winning,” Scherzer told reporters at WinterFest in D.C. earlier this month, “is how important it is to our fans here in D.C., and how many new fans we created.”
While he said he was enjoying being back in Nationals Park, celebrating with fans one last time, the right-hander said he was already well along in his preparation for 2020.
“I’m down in Florida right now training, so coming back up here, this is the reason why we play the game, to win the World Series, and getting to relive it with all the fans. and all the emotions, that just gives you the motivation to go back down there and keep training.”
Scherzer has previously acknowledged that the injuries he dealt with, and the nature of the injuries during the regular season, made for a frustrating year, before things ended well. So, what, if anything, has he changed about his offseason workout regimen in reaction to what he experienced in 2019?
“Not too much,” Scherzer explained. “Just trying to figure out where my body is at, and just how I responded, and now the calendar has turned to January here, I’m feeling actually really good right now, with throwing and running and doing everything I need to do, my body is in a pretty good spot considering how late we played last year.”
“I’ve recovered from our playoff run,” he added, “and I’m back into training, I feel good, I’m right where I need to be throwing the ball, so I’ll be going to Spring Training full-tilt.”
Scherzer also dismissed any concerns that the heavy workload (which actually only ended up being 202 1⁄3 IP overall for him due to the IL stints) would affect him in the upcoming season.
“I’ve been in the playoffs before,” the three-time Cy Young award winner said.
“I’ve been in the World Series before, and I know how to take care of myself, more so than ever now, and I feel good about going into 2020 and pitching well.”
Having dealt with the injuries, however, Scherzer said he was making some adjustments to his preparation.
“Yeah, we’ve got some ideas of different things I’ve got to do,” he said. “I’m doing different lifts now to help try to do some corrective exercises to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
“But you allude to it,” he told reporters, “... it was the most confusing injury I’ve ever had in my career, and how it came about and how it went away, it wasn’t just a normal injury, so definitely cognizant of that and doing everything I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.”
How long after the season did he feel like he was 100% recovered from the stress and strain of the Nationals’ October run?
“It just was a process of just recovering,” Scherzer said. “I played catch probably two weeks after the World Series, and I was playing catch okay, so I knew that there was no long-term damage, and then did the whole MRI thing and that came away clean too. Everybody wanted to dot their Is and cross their Ts, and everybody did, and I’m good. I’m strong. I’m good. I can throw a baseball really well. I’m good.”
Did he have it all in Game 7, after the nerve issue in his neck cropped up and kept him off of the mound for his scheduled outing in Game 6, or was it one of those outings where you gut it out with what you have?
“I had it all,” Scherzer said. “Neck injuries can come on quick and they can also be alleviated quick, and for the most part I felt pretty good, I felt really good actually going out there and definitely I could compete at 100%.
“And that’s all you need to do in the postseason is compete at 100% and nothing in my body was limited in any fashion in Game 7.”
Scherzer did his part to contribute to the Nationals’ World Series win, but that’s in the past now, and they’ll try to do it again in 2020, with some new faces on the roster, but the same goal as a group.
“We have a bunch of our guys back,” Scherzer said. “The core of this team is still back, and we can all look each other in the eyes and know that when it counts, we can all count on each other and we’re a bunch of winners, and I think that’s just going to breed itself. We’re going to face a tremendous amount of challenges this year coming into it, but it’s going to be what it takes in the clubhouse to be able to respond to it. And that’s what we play the game for. It’s going to be a challenge and we’re up for it.”