Max Scherzer threw a long-ish 27-pitch first inning last night in the second of two with the New York Mets in Washington, D.C., giving up a leadoff walk and one run on a sac fly in the opening frame.
A conversation in the dugout followed the completion of the inning, and in the top of the second, Scherzer was replaced on the mound.
Erick Fedde took over in the top of the second inning, and we’ll forgive you if you were a little bit panicked at that point.
Scherzer went from 98 pitches total in his first outing against the New York Yankees, to 112 pitches in start No. 2, against the Toronto Blue Jays, in 5 1⁄3-inning and 7 1⁄3-inning starts, respectively, and the 36-year-old, 13-year veteran said after his second appearance that he prepared for this sort of thing all winter and Spring, in spite of what was really an on-again-off-again experience in Spring Training 1.0, which ended abruptly in mid-March, and Spring Training 2.0, which was just three weeks long in early July.
“During the shutdown I made sure I was training just as hard to make sure because I knew as soon as we get back going, I have to be ready to go,” the three-time Cy Young winning pitcher told reporters.
“The injury-risk factor goes up when you shorten down your Spring Training time, so I knew I had to keep my arm as close to game speed as possible the whole time, and so for me, I just look at the work I did there to allow myself to be able to put myself in a position to be able to do what I need to do now.”
The Nationals don’t usually offer in-game injury reports as a team policy, though they have, on occasion, broken with that tradition, but everyone had to wait until the end of what was a 3-1 loss to the Mets to learn that it was just a tweaked hamstring which ended Scherzer’s outing.
“I had a little — I tweaked my hammy yesterday,” Scherzer explained. “And I knew it was an ailment — and [maybe] I should go back a little bit further on this...
“Before the Blue Jays start I did the same thing, I tweaked my hammy before that start.
“It wasn’t anything major and it was one of those things where I was able to go into the Blue Jays start with a little tweaked hammy, and it didn’t get any worse, so I was able to do that.
“And was able to go through this turn and be able to lift, run, do everything the same and the same thing happened yesterday. Day before a start, tweaked my hammy again, a little bit different this time.”
“Recovered decently going into today,” he continued, “so there was a chance that I thought I could pitch, and that I could make it my full slate, full start of pitches, and as I was warming up, I asked [catcher Kurt Suzuki] and I asked [Pitching Coach Paul] Menhart, just kind of, ‘How do I look?’ And they said, ‘You look good.’
“Everything’s coming out well and I felt like I was getting through the ball as well even though I was was a little mechanically different to kind of compensate for it.
“And then obviously what they saw after the first inning, Zuk just saw what my stuff was playing like. He didn’t like it. He just didn’t like what he saw.
“How the ball was coming out of my hand, what he was seeing. He just had a conversation with me, ‘Just get out of here. You’re taking on too much risk to continue to pitch.’ I didn’t injure it any further, there wasn’t like a — I didn’t do anything worse, just that was my limit for today. I wasn’t going to pitch past that limit, and it wasn’t going to loosen up any more by pitching.”
“We knew going in he had tweaked it yesterday a little bit,” manager Davey Martinez said in his own post game press conference.
“He said he felt fine. We talked to him today again, and he said he was good to pitch.
“After the first inning we thought differently and he agreed and just want to make sure that we keep him right.
“He said after the game that he felt fine so we’ll see what happens between now and his next start.”
Scherzer was clear that he doesn’t think it’s a big deal or a serious injury.
“I’m really not concerned about this,” he said. “I feel like this is going to heal up here pretty soon. The only reason it creeped up more was because it happened yesterday, so here in a couple days, this should feel really good again. I really see this as a minor injury and more precaution than anything to keep from doing any further damage.”