Max Scherzer was pleased with his initial outing of the spring last week, a 38-pitch effort in which the 36-year-old, 13-year veteran gave up one hit and two walks and had two runners he left on come around to score once he was done for the day.
“Just been things I’ve been working on, seeing if I was going to be able to execute it, things for tonight, and that was kind of hit or miss of what I was actually trying to accomplish,” he told reporters on a Zoom call after his appearance.
“But with this, it was just getting out there and getting a feel. Getting back on it, getting back on the bump, and trying to throw strikes and fill the zone.
“Fill the zone with all your pitches as well. Just trying to get a feel for everything I’m trying to do and get the pitches in the zone when I need to.
“I don’t like walks, but at the end of the day I was trying to go out there and pump strikes.”
An ankle sprain suffered while working out as he built towards Spring Training, set Scherzer back at the start this spring, but he’s back on track and looking forward to his 14th season in the majors.
“From here it’s just ramping up and understanding when I can start adding more kind of intensity to every single pitch,” Scherzer said of the next step in his progression.
“As I get the pitch count up, kind of mapping out what my spring is going to look like and how many pitches I’m going to need on each start to get ready for Opening Day, or not necessarily Opening Day, but just the first start of the season. Where I need to get my arm ready. When I really need to be hitting on all cylinders and that’s here in a couple starts, so that’s why I felt like tonight I really wanted to make sure I was under control, make sure everything is right.
“I’ve been having a lot of mound work as of recently, a lot of bullpen, day off, bullpen, live, and then game. So kind of a lot of mound work right now. So that’s just the reason at this point and this stage in the ballgame you’ve just got to be careful about creating any kind of little injuries that become big injuries. So, and I felt like I was able to avoid anything tonight, just go out there and get my work in and then worry about getting the intensity later.”
Going into start No. 2 of the 2021 Grapefruit League season, Scherzer was expected to get up to around 45-50 pitches.
“We’re trying to get him to 45-50 pitches today, so we’ll see how he feels,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters before Wednesday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We’re going to stretch him out to hopefully 45-50 pitches today. Hopefully we get him through that first inning with less than 15-16 pitches, and then we’ll see where he’s at from there.
“The biggest thing with these guys is the up/downs. Trying to get them out there, get them back in the dugout, let them sit there for a while, and get them back out.
“For me, these starting pitchers, that’s what they really need to get used to again.”
Scherzer got up and down three times, finishing three scoreless and hitless innings on 42 pitches, 33 strikes, striking out five without walking a batter in start No. 2 of the spring.
“I liked it. I liked it all,” his manager said. “His breaking ball was sharp. It was an overall good day for Max, and us.”
Martinez said he saw good signs that the issues with Scherzer’s ankle were behind him.
“As he continues to go out there and as he progresses to four or five innings, he’ll get stronger,” he explained.
“I know today, typically when he’s throwing the ball pretty good, he’ll let out a couple grunts, he did that a few times today, so that was encouraging, but like I said, overall, I thought he threw the ball well, I really did. We’re heading in the right direction with Max.”
“I did some things well,” Scherzer said, in offering his own assessment of his outing.
“Thought I spun the ball pretty well, but I also thought I was kind of leaving some balls arm side on a lot of executions that were kind of maybe six inches arm side versus where I was actually trying to put the baseball. Those are the things that get you in trouble in the regular season, especially when you get out of the stretch.
“That’s where you can get amplified mistakes and that’s the exact example of kind of what you’re talking or what you’re asking for, that was something I took out of today, and I’ll work on going into the next outing.”
What progress did he make in his second start of the spring?
“I was able to put a little more intensity into the ankle and that checked out great. I was able to get three innings in today, and at a higher intensity level.
“So I’m progressing as expected, and it’s good to get out there and throw three innings.”