Nationals ace Max Scherzer, one of the first and highest-profile players to commit to play for the United States in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, will not participate in the tournament because of “the ongoing rehabilitation stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger,” the club announced Monday afternoon in a statement. The Nationals added that the 32-year-old Scherzer is expected “to be a full participant” in spring training, which begins Feb. 14 for pitchers and catchers in West Palm Beach, Fla.
In a tweet posted later Monday, Scherzer said he first felt pain in the finger in late August. He pitched through the discomfort, including two playoff starts, but it persisted so he underwent a second MRI in December, which revealed the stress fracture.
Scherzer, the reigning National League Cy Young award winner, declared his intention to pitch for Team USA in November and expressed his excitement for the competition last month at the Nationals’ annual Winterfest. He said he wasn’t sure when he would pitch, but he was expected to make one start in group play, which is slated to begin against Colombia on March 10 in Miami for the United States. Scherzer could’ve then returned to the Nationals because of a new rule that allows teams to add two pitchers after each round.
“I’ve seen different games and videos where the fans are going crazy, especially for the Latin American countries,” Scherzer said. “It seems like those fans are crazy out there. Seems like an environment that I want to pitch in.”
Scherzer, one of six pitchers in history to win the Cy Young award in both leagues, would’ve been one of the marquee names in the tournament. Over the past four seasons, he ranks first in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts, third in strikeouts per nine innings, 10th in ERA, seventh in FIP (fielding independent pitching) and second in FanGraphs WAR among pitchers.
In November, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said “you always have concerns” with pitchers, but he did not dissuade Scherzer, who logged 240 1/3 innings between the regular season and playoffs in 2016, or any other player from committing to participate in the tournament four years after Nationals pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detweiler represented the United States.
Scherzer’s de-commitment leaves second baseman Daniel Murphy (USA) and left-hander Oliver Perez (Mexico) as the only remaining players on Washington’s 40-man roster slated to play in the WBC.