Stop Trading Scherzer:
Before Max Scherzer left last night’s game with an apparent injury (groin tweak), there was an uptick in chatter about what the future holds of the three-time Cy Young award-winner.
MLB Network analyst Jon Morosi reported earlier this week that his sources were telling him the Washington Nationals, “aren’t ready to listen to offers on Max Scherzer yet ... but they’re last in the NL East and their mindset could change in the weeks ahead,” and the rumor mill with Scherzer is only going to pick up momentum if the Nationals continue to struggle over the next few weeks, provided he returns from what was diagnosed as a mild tweak of his groin.
Scherzer, who’ll turn 37 in July, is in the final year of his 7-year/$210M deal with the Nats, and as of now there hasn’t been any public reporting on progress on a potential deal to keep him in D.C. beyond 2021.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies this past Wednesday that the club has six weeks to assess what they have this season.
“We’ve got about five or six weeks to see what we’ve got before the trade deadline, and then we’ll make decisions as we see fit,” Rizzo said, as quoted on NBC Sports Washington.
If they don’t turn things around and climb out of the basement in the NL East, though the club isn’t so far back that they’re a lost cause at this point, will they sell at the deadline?
“Fortunately, the division has given us a chance. They’re keeping us in this thing until we get right, and we’ve been through this thing before,” Rizzo said.
“Once we can get things rolling, we take off.”
If they don’t, will they actually consider trading Scherzer?
While Davey Martinez didn’t discuss that possibility, he did offer his take on where Scherzer is stuff-wise, as he approaches his 37th birthday.
Through 12 starts and 77 IP before last night, Scherzer had a 2.22 ERA, a 3.05 FIP, 1.75 BB/9, 12.16 K/9, and a .180/.233/.326 line against.
“For me right now, what I see about him is that he’s smart. He goes out there, he knows when he has to step on it,” Martinez said.
“He just knows how to pitch and that prolongs what he does every day. It really does. The fact that he can go out there at 110 pitches and throw 97 MPH when he needs to, is unbelievable, but that’s a testament to how hard he works in-between his starts to get ready for those starts.
“I always look at him, I never really — you say he’s getting closer to 40 — I joke around with him, I tell him, I say, ‘Hey, you’re still 30. You’ve got plenty more in you.’ And he loves it.”
Will what Scherzer has left be expended in support of the Nationals’ cause going forward, or will he have one last chapter in baseball somewhere else?
UPDATE: Scherzer said after the game that he thought he avoided a serious injury. “It’s really a best-case scenario in terms of what the injury is, and that I’m really day-to-day and that this could subside pretty quickly here.”
Davey Martinez knew Daniel Hudson had not pitched for five days before he leaned on the oft-used right-hander for 1 2⁄3 innings and a season-high tying 31 total pitches in the club’s series finale with the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.
Martinez also used closer Brad Hand in the 9th and 10th innings of the second of two with the Rays, taking him up to 44 pitches, 15 more pitches than his previous season high in ‘21, and the most he’s thrown in an appearance since 2016.
So how does Martinez balance the need to win close games and not overwork his top relievers?
“When you feel like you really have an opportunity to win a game,” Martinez explained, “... and these guys are readily available, as you know, they’re two of our best back end of the bullpen guys, you try to maximize their usage. I know they didn’t pitch in four days.
“We had to give on one in case we need them for today [Thursday]. The other guy, like I said, we used Hand because Huddy has been pitching a lot.
“So today we just got to be smart.
“Probably Hand is going to be down, but I’m assuming that Huddy, he threw  pitches yesterday, he’ll come in like he always does, and say he’s good, but we got to be smart about getting him up and in, and not letting him get four outs.
“With that being said, [Wander] Suero has been throwing the ball well, [Kyle] McGowin has been throwing the ball well. [Paolo] Espino has been throwing the ball well, so these guys will be readily available today.”
[ed. note - “All three pitchers he mentioned ended up having to pitch when Scherzer left the game in the first, and Sam Clay and Ryne Harper too.”]
Martinez did, however, acknowledge that some other relievers have to step up and give the club options at the back end so that they don’t have to always lean on Hudson and Hand.
“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “I know [Sam] Clay, Clay is going to have to pitch in high-leverage situations, you know. And he can. I really believe that he can. I talk a lot about him, and he closed out games in the minor leagues before, so he understands high-leverage situations, so it’s just about him going out there. The biggest thing for us is the walks.
“And we talk a lot about these guys coming in the games in situations and not to give up free passes, because when you give up free passes, it creates big opportunities for the opponents. So, hey, if they’re going to hit you, they’re going to hit you, they’ve got a bat for a reason, so just go in there and throw strikes and get quick outs if you can. So, the walks is what’s frustrating.
“Guys come in and start walking guys, and as we all know, you come in and you walk the leadoff hitter, a lot of times that guy is going to score.
“So just come out there and throw strikes and let them put the ball in play, our defense has been really good, so let the defense play behind you.”
Do that, you’ll gain the manager’s trust, and he’ll hopefully call on you and spare Hudson and Hand from having to handle all of the high-leverage, late-inning opportunities.
An extra day off Thursday night likely helped everyone recover, and Martinez said before that postponed matchup with the San Francisco Giants that the team monitors everyone very closely.
“For me it’s just watching the workload that these guys have had. [Tanner] Rainey, two days in a row with him. Hand [Wednesday] throwing 45 pitches. So we got to keep an eye on those two guys. The rest of those guys should be good to go.”
Especially after a long flight home on which some players apparently got in a good sleep.
“The plane was really quiet last night, a lot of guys were sleeping. A lot of guys had their headphones on, but it was fairly quiet, so hopefully they all got their rest, and they’re ready to go today.”
Espino, McGowin, Suero, Harper, and Clay combined to cover 8 2⁄3 innings after Scherzer left the mound, which, going into a doubleheader today, was not ideal.
“Proud of all those guys,” Martinez said after the game. “Let’s just hope they can pitch tomorrow.”
QUICK HITS - Strasburg; Harris; Voth:
Any updates on Stephen Strasburg, who was diagnosed with nerve irritation in his neck and placed on the 10-Day IL back on June 3rd, after he’d previously missed time on the IL with inflammation in his right shoulder earlier this season?
“Nothing,” Martinez said yesterday. “He actually just — he came to the ballpark, he did some kind of workout and left, so nothing new.”
Did he talk to the pitcher?
“I didn’t talk to him today, but like I said, it’s ongoing, it’s frustrating for him,” Martinez said.
“I know, we’re trying to figure things out, but hopefully in the next few days, something will transpire. We’ll see. Right now he’s just — like I said we just want him to rest and see if his nerve calms down a little bit.”
And how about Will Harris (surgery after being diagnosed with Thoracic outlet syndrome) or Austin Voth (hit by a pitch in the face last weekend in Philadelphia; broken nose)?
“I talked to Will and Austin both,” Martinez said.
“Will, I saw yesterday. He was in the clubhouse, he was getting some treatment done. He said he feels great, and he can’t wait to be back on the mound helping us win and pitch.
“Voth I saw yesterday, the swelling has gone down tremendously. He can open his eye now.
“He actually was able to ride the bike. He went out and kind of threw the baseball at a short distance, and he said he felt fine.
“Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the swelling to completely go down until he can do more baseball activity.”
While Harris’s recovery is a long-term thing, any timetable for Voth?
“It’s going to be a day-to-day thing,” the manager said. “But with hopes that once that 10 days are past that he’ll be close.”