Manager Dave Martinez mentioned that timeline Monday, then acknowledged right away that that is “not by any means a target date."
“He’s not a happy camper," Martinez said of Scherzer ahead of a 7:05 p.m. first pitch with the Braves. "He wants to be out there and competing, so this is kind of a tough deal for him. But I told him today: ‘We’ll get you right. You have to stay positive.’ "
There were other matters of procedure Monday, once Scherzer went to the IL and the Nationals shifted their focus to another game. They recalled Erick Fedde in Scherzer’s place, and Martinez confirmed Fedde will face the Braves on Tuesday. Matt Adams, the team’s starting first baseman with Ryan Zimmerman out, got a CT scan after a slider struck his right foot Sunday. The results came back negative. Martinez hoped Adams would be available to pinch-hit in the first of three against the Braves, who lead Washington by 5½ games in the National League East.
The Nationals also designated reliever Justin Miller for assignment, removing him from the 60-day IL and putting his future with the franchise in jeopardy. Miller has been sidelined since mid-May with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder. He now will be on waivers for 10 days and, if another team doesn’t claim him, could accept a minor league assignment from Washington or elect to become a free agent. The 32-year-old has been with the Nationals since the start of last season and had a 3.71 ERA in 68 appearances.
But Scherzer’s absence, and now his second IL stint of the second half, looms as the Nationals’ biggest problem. They will use Fedde in the ace’s rotation spot but could need another fill-in starter — among Joe Ross, Kyle McGowin or the still-injured Austin Voth — if the 35-year-old Scherzer doesn’t come back right away. Their starting pitching depth is thinning by the day. And they have less than 48 hours to address that ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline, with bullpen help remaining a top priority.
Washington first publicly diagnosed Scherzer’s injury as a mid-back strain, then changed that to inflammation in the bursa under his right shoulder blade. He received a cortisone shot, felt 100 percent in the middle of last week and returned to face the Colorado Rockies on Thursday. But he didn’t recover well, feeling pain when he woke up Friday morning, and more tests revealed the rhomboid strain. Scherzer received a stem cell shot, with a goal of starting against the Braves on Tuesday. He will instead be shut down for a few days, at the least, and work on “building up strength” with head athletic trainer Paul Lessard and his staff, Martinez said.
Asked whether the injuries were connected or independent issues, Martinez said: “I can’t really answer that, because the first time it was the bursa inflammation and now he has a strain of his rhomboid muscle. Could it be related? Yeah, it’s in the same vicinity. But I know they are treating [the rhomboid strain] as something different.”