MIAMI — Max Scherzer was upbeat when he addressed the media late Tuesday night, a couple hours after exiting the Nationals’ loss to the Marlins after just one inning with neck spasms. He insisted it wasn’t a major injury and that “this will come and go.” He much preferred to talk about the three-run home run he hit before exiting.
His optimism carried into Wednesday. The right-hander said he plans on visiting a chiropractor for his stiff neck some time over the next couple days and believes an adjustment should alleviate his discomfort, which he said derived from having “slept on it funny” earlier in the week.
“I definitely went to Target to get a nice pillow,” Scherzer said. “So I’ll be traveling with that.”
The Nationals knew about Scherzer’s neck problem before he pitched Tuesday. He was given medication and treatment for the discomfort, which helped enough for him to make his start. But after throwing 10 pitches in the first inning and hitting his first career home run, the 33-year-old all-star removed himself from the game after throwing one warmup pitch in the second inning.
Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said isn’t concerned about Scherzer missing a start “right now.” Scherzer said his status depends on his chiropractor appointment.
The speed bump has emerged while the Nationals’ starting rotation is embroiled in uncertainty. Stephen Strasburg is on the disabled list with a right elbow impingement, and Baker said Tuesday he “probably” won’t pitch this weekend in Chicago. Baker had maintained Strasburg would miss just one start when the team placed him on the DL, but that would be Strasburg’s second.
Then there’s Joe Ross, who was lost for the season a few weeks ago, and Gio Gonzalez, who could go on the paternity leave list any day now. To top it off, the Nationals had to call up A.J. Cole on Wednesday to start the series finale against the Marlins because they are playing six games in five days. The Nationals have an off-day Thursday before beginning a three-game series in Chicago against the Cubs. Tanner Roark is slated to start Friday. Saturday and Sunday’s starting pitchers haven’t been announced.
“We don’t know about Max’s neck, when it’s going to subside, we’re trying to set our rotation so you have innings versus lesser innings without back-to-back guys or lesser-inning kind of guys to put pressure on the bullpen,” Baker said. “So we still have to wait on Gio’s baby to come. We don’t know when that is.”
As for injured position players, shortstop Trea Turner and left fielder Jayson Werth were dispatched to the Nationals’ facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday afternoon. Turner hasn’t been cleared to hit yet and has only played some light catch with his fractured right hand as of Tuesday, but Werth is inching close to a return.
The 38-year-old has been on the disabled list since June 5 with a fractured left foot, which was originally announced to the public as just a contusion. He’s been able to do everything, including taking batting practice, for weeks, but the foot wasn’t healed enough to run. Werth, however, said he began running on treadmills recently and will get some simulation-game at-bats in West Palm Beach, which will include running. He said he will then join the Nationals when they return to Washington next week. A rehab assignment could follow.
“Everything’s healed,” Werth said. “It’s just about getting back in shape and progressing. If I was riding lawn mowers for a living, I would’ve been back at work by now.”
Brian Goodwin CF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bryce Harper RF
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Adam Lind LF
Anthony Rendon 3B
Wilmer Difo SS
Jose Lobaton C
A.J. Cole RHP
Dee Gordon 2B
Giancarlo Stanton RF
Christian Yelich CF
Marcell Ozuna LF
J.T. Realmuto C
Derek Dietrich 3B
Tyler Moore 1B
Miguel Rojas SS
Vance Worley RHP