How do you get motivated to do it again after you win it all? It’s not that hard according to Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals’ 35-year-old, 12-year veteran, who made it back to the World Series for the second time in his career this past October, and won it for the first time. Not hard at all.
And don’t talk to the three-time Cy Young award-winner about complacency setting in now that he and his teammates won a World Series, which was the first MLB championship by a D.C.-based team since 1924.
“It’s our absolute dream to win this thing again,” Scherzer said after making his third start of the Spring on Tuesday afternoon in West Palm Beach, FL.
“We’re motivated as heck to be able to go out there and compete at this level,” he added.
“We’re professionals. This is what we do for a living, so any kind of thing saying that we don’t have a drive or anything like that, that’s all coming from the outside, nothing in here.”
Scherzer went 3 1⁄3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday afternoon, giving up a total of five hits and two earned runs, walking one batter, and striking out five in a 54-pitch outing he said afterwards was just another step in the process of building towards Opening Day.
“You understand the process of this,” Scherzer said. “It’s all about building up arm strength, and there’s a time where you can just work on different things, as you see different guys, as you get a little deeper into outings. Now you’re facing guys two times through the lineup, and that’s kind of the challenge now. Can you get them once? Can you get them twice as you build up? And just making sure that everything feels good as you continue to move forward, so for me I understand the process, and you have to make these little 15 pitch-count increments every outing to get yourself ready for the season.”
While he’s building arm strength, Scherzer explained, he’s also working on getting on the same page with his catcher, Kurt Suzuki in this case, who guided the righty to a 2.08 ERA and a .204/.252/.326 line against in 16 starts and 99 2⁄3 IP together in 2019 (as opposed to his 4.09 ERA and .245/.284/.429 line against in 12 starts and 72 2⁄3 innings working with the only other catcher he worked with last year, Yan Gomes).
“Getting in sync with Zuk, working on some different sequences, some pitches,” Scherzer said in discussing his focus in start No. 3 this Spring.
“Executed some good pitches, also made some mistakes, so got what I needed to get out of this outing.”
More than getting any one pitch working, or waiting for a particular offering to catch up to others, Scherzer said, the goal in these early outings is to work out sequences and test the ones that do and don’t work.
“It’s kind of just putting all the sequences together,” he told reporters, “... moving between each pitch, understanding where the extension needs to be on each pitch, and kind of what sequence makes you fail, where you don’t execute a pitch in the sequence. So that’s kind of working with Zuk, understanding what pitches we want to put together, and just continue to — if we fail at one, do it again next time out.”