Max Scherzer made his final preseason start, before he takes the mound next Thursday in front of 5,000 fans in Nationals Park, pitching in a B-game in West Palm Beach, FL, facing Houston Astros’ minor leaguers. Scherzer, of course didn’t approach it like a B-game with minor leaguers. It didn’t matter that there were no fans in the stands on Saturday.
“You’ve got to mentally bring it in a B-game. A ‘B-game’ becomes an A-game in your mind, so that’s how you have to approach it,” the three-time Cy Young award winner said.
His final tune-up before his sixth Opening Day start in seven seasons in D.C., Scherzer said, was a good one.
“I felt good. Focus for me today was coming in and really making sure I got my slider a tick harder, with more depth, and I was able to execute that today.
“That’s what I was really gunning to make sure that I was executing today and I was able to check that box.”
Following his final Grapefruit League start earlier this month, Scherzer said the goal going into his last pre-Opening Day outing was to get that slider right.
“I need to get my slider going,” he explained on March 21st. “I just don’t have great feel for the slider right now. I can just see how the pitches look on film and that will be the thing that I kind of work on going into the next start, to make sure I get my slider really going.”
That was one of the final tweaks he wanted to make heading into the matchup with the New York Mets in the nation’s capital this coming Thursday night. It’s not the last one he’ll make.
“You’re always making tweaks,” Scherzer said. “You’re always making little adjustments to what you’re doing, whichever pitch, even throughout the year, so it’s normal to be able to make an adjustment like that, and like I said, from last start to this start was able to make an adjustment on the slider and see the results of that. So that was the biggest bonus of pitching today, and pitching with no fans.”
Heading into the opener, the 36-year-old, 14-year veteran said he needs a little tweak with his mechanics to get fully in sync.
“There was a couple times just throughout the game where my hands weren’t in sync with my mechanics, my hands were dragging, and just got me a little side-to-side. The changeup — fastball was kind of missing arm-side a little bit at times, and the changeup kind of wasn’t 100% there all the time.
“There’s some things I have to tweak coming in, going into Opening Day, but that’s baseball, you’re always making little tweaks like that throughout the year, and I know exactly what I’ve got to do... so one little last thing I’ve got to do to try to be as ready as possible for Opening Day.”
What, if any, adjustments will he have to make when it comes to pitching on what right now (as of Saturday night at 8:30 PM) is expected to be a rainy, 45° day in D.C. on Thursday after he made all of his starts in warm and sunny Florida this spring?
“That’s a challenge for everybody,” Scherzer acknowledged. “Everybody that’s down here in nice Florida warm weather, it’s been great. It’s been nice and hot. Even today it’s nice and hot.
“But yeah, as many challenges as I’m going to have pitching in that, so are the Mets. They’re facing the exact same challenges that I am, so that’s part of baseball.
“You’re always constantly moving from time zones, to having different weather, and dealing with the elements, hot, cold, windy, it’s raining, you name it, we play in every element there is that you can and so moving from hot to a cold game, that’s just part of the gig.
“We pitch in all facets of weather, whether it’s cold or extremely hot and you have to be able to deal with it.
“You got to be able to deal with it. It will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge for everyone.”