Davey Martinez talked after Max Scherzer’s second bullpen session of the Spring about the pitcher’s determination to start the Grapefruit League opener on Saturday night, even if it’s just the first game in West Palm Beach, FL.
“We’re talking about Max,” Martinez said with a laugh. “He’s definitely on schedule, we’ll see.”
“He’s going to throw a live BP in a couple days and we’ll go from there,” the manager added.
“But yeah, he’s adamant about being the first guy out there. I haven’t made that decision yet.”
Scherzer apparently made it for his manager.
After the 35-year-old threw two sessions of live batting practice on Wednesday, throwing a total of 42 pitches to Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, and Starlin Castro in his first “inning” of work, and then another 22 pitches to Wilmer Difo, Brandon Snyder, and Mac Williamson, the three-time Cy Young award-winner told reporters he was good to go against the Houston Astros this Saturday at 6:05 PM EST in The FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
“I feel really good right now,” Scherzer said after his day was done.
“To be at this point, to hit the first live BP and be able to make two ups, that’s exactly where I need to be. Shoulder’s a little tired, right where you want it, so I threw just enough pitches, just right to be able to get back out there in a couple days when the games start up and so right on target.”
So it is important for him to start the first game of the Spring?
“When you just look at the schedule,” Scherzer explained, “we just kind of mapped out little things of hey this is where we’re at and then we can make decisions later, but at least to get the initial [outings] going because I think we have a split-doubleheader the second day, and so for guys throwing ‘live’ right now in the next two days, it makes [Pitching Coach Paul] Menhart’s day a little easier right now if I can actually go the first day so he can have more arms to cover on that split squad.”
“Max looked really good,” his manager said. Coming off an odd campaign during which he missed time with two separate injuries in the regular season and was forced to skip a start in the World Series, Martinez said he just wants to get Scherzer and the rest of his starters through the Spring healthy and ready for Opening Day.
“For me, it’s just building his strength up, building his reps up and just going from there,” Martinez said. “Like I said, for me I try not to think too far ahead. Today he threw the ball good, threw 20 pitches, went and sat down, came back out and threw another 22 pitches, and really the last few he really aired out and he looked good. So, we’ll see tomorrow how he wakes up and how he feels. I’m assuming with it being his first ‘live’ he’s going to be a little sore, but that’s just my assumption. He might feel great. But he looked like Max.”
“You have to be able to know — I should say in Spring Training here — you have to push yourself to get to some fatigue, that’s good for you,” Scherzer said.
“That’s when you know you’re pushing the limit and how you’re building up, because this is honestly the most dangerous time of year for pitchers. This is when you see a good amount of Tommy Johns across the league and everything, so that’s why I’m always scared of that. I always want to come into camp on a throwing program that’s way ahead so that I am pushing that fatigue and my arm just stays fatigued and it’s able to recover, so that as I’m increasing this I’m not doing it from a dangerous position. So for me, things like that when I say ‘fatigue’ that’s a good thing. Because if you’re not ready for some of this throwing, it’s not fatigue, you get hurt, or even worse you get injured. So for me, you’ve got to know that line of where you’re at and to me, hey, you’ve got some fatigue right where I wanted to be, so I know my arm will be tired after the next start here. I’m back out there again pretty soon, so just understanding that process of Spring Training over the years I know exactly where I need to be and I’m exactly where I need to be.”
Martinez was asked what he’s actually looking at when he’s watching a veteran starter like Scherzer early in Spring Training.
“Just repeating his mechanics and just where he’s at,” Martinez said.
“Max is very meticulous in what he does and how he does things, so you kind of just watch and see what he’s going through every pitch and like I said, based on mechanics, using his legs, where his arm slot is, but he was good. I mean, he was really good.”
And what does Scherzer take out his early Spring bullpen sessions and live BP after all these years?
“It’s your first time getting out there,” the 12-year veteran said, “... and you’re so anxious to face hitters and it’s kind of your measuring stick moment and especially when you’re in the clubhouse this much and all these guys are talking trash now and you want to shut them up because you know they’re going to be running their mouths for the next six months.
“It’s just fun to be able to face your own guys and just over the years of understanding where I need to be at physically. I’ve been in much worse spots and still made it, so it’s good to be at this spot and feeling good.”
Feeling good, if a little sore. But as he reiterated, that’s a good thing.
“I’m sore in all the right spots,” Scherzer said.
“We joke about that during the year, the different spots, where you can be sore and that’s actually good, but when you’re sore in a spot where you’re not familiar with it, that’s when it gets dangerous.”
The next step? Throw 30-40 pitches on Saturday, and build from there.