“He’s ready for it and he loves those moments,” Patrick Corbin told reporters after his final outing of the Grapefruit League season, when he was asked about rotation mate, and the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day starter, Max Scherzer, getting the nod for the season opener tonight with the New York Mets.
“It’s going to be a fun one with some of the best pitchers in baseball. I think we’re all excited for it, and I know Max is,” Corbin added of the Scherzer vs Jacob deGrom matchup in Game 1 of 162.
“We’re ready for some real games and I think that’s what it really comes down to.”
Max Scherzer, Beautiful 83mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/6ejBwEiXzz— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 15, 2021
“I’ve always respected and I’ve always loved his competitiveness,” new Nationals’ starter Jon Lester said of Scherzer.
“So watching him for so long across the way, going against him for so long, I respect that, and I feel like we’re similar in that aspect of just being hard-headed sometimes.
“Sometimes it beats us, most of the time you come out on top. I love that. I love to watch.
“I’ll be top-stepping and up there grunting and grinding with him. I’m excited that I’m on this side of the field with him now.”
Scherzer, who’s making the Opening Day start for the sixth time in his seven seasons in D.C., said he’s excited to have fans back in the stands, even if only 5,000 for now, after pitching in empty ballparks last year under the COVID protocols for the 2020 MLB campaign.
Max Scherzer, Nasty 91mph Cutter. ✂️ pic.twitter.com/lcxQr5b3D5— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 15, 2021
“There’s actually going to be fans in the stands here in D.C. so that’s obviously going to be a plus to have some type of atmosphere there,” Scherzer said.
“And the start of the season, everybody gets butterflies on Opening Day. That’s a good thing. And so, to be out there, it’s a great feeling, a great honor to be out there, and it’s a great day in baseball.”
So after six Opening Day starts in the last seven seasons, the 36-year-old, 13-year veteran still gets butterflies?
“I think everybody does,” Scherzer said.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it ‘butterflies.’ Everybody is just anxious to get the season going.
“Everybody knows that you’re staring at 162 games. This is the first one out and you’re on that starting line. So you’re anxious to get going, you want to get your season going. You want to do everything you can. Everybody is anxious there before the game with all the ceremonies and everything that goes down with that, and just to be able to kick off the season, it’s fun to be out there.”
Going into the seventh year of his 7-year/$210M deal with the Nationals, Scherzer said he’s got two goals in mind.
Max Scherzer, Wicked 85mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/CRWerpkGyM— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 15, 2021
“I set two goals. One: Get better,” the three-time Cy Young winner said.
“Find something in your game to get better at,” he explained. “Execute your pitches at a higher level, because the rest of the league is getting better. You have to match that, you have to evolve with the rest of the game and continue to get better. You never stay the same in baseball, you either get better or you get worse. So, for me, my goal is always to get better.
“And I think there’s things I can do for me to continue to be a better pitcher. And then goal No. 2 is to win the World Series. Come into the park and you’re here to win, and you’re here to win a World Series with the rest of your teammates. Because that’s the best feeling there is in baseball. In sports. So for me, those are my only two goals.”
Where does he see room for improvement in his game at this point in his career?
“I think there was some mechanical things that I had intentionally messed with going into 2020 that I think allowed me — I lost some deception,” Scherzer said.
“I think if I fix that I can bring back a little deception, and once I get that back that makes all the pitches play up better. And then how I can execute each pitch can be at a higher level as well. So, everything I was kind of working on in 2020 — once you get to that eight, ten-start window, you kind of get a reflection of where you’re actually at going into the season, that’s when you’re finally getting into midseason form and understanding where you’re kind of at, is after about eight to ten starts.”
Scherzer, 36, put up a 3.74 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 23 walks (3.07 BB/9), 92 strikeouts (12.30 K/9), and a .260/.319/.424 line against in 67 2⁄3 innings pitched in the 12 starts he made last season.
“I still feel like my 2020 season was just cut off,” he said, echoing what he said at the end of the 2020 campaign and again this spring, “... because that’s just when you’re getting going, and understanding where you’re at and making adjustments off of that.
“And so hopefully how I’m thinking about 2021 and the adjustments I want to make, hopefully I see the results immediately coming out of the chute, but no matter what happens, it’s going to take eight-to-ten starts to figure out exactly where you’re at.
“How the guys are seeing you. What the approach is, and really what the changes in the game have been from the hitting standpoint. Who’s made strides and who hasn’t. It’s always a challenge, it’s always evolving, you’re always tinkering, you’re always paying attention to every little thing to continue to get yourself better, but that’s where I’m at going into 2021.”