The Washington Nationals are trying to protect Max Scherzer from himself. Any chance that the veteran right-hander would return from the injured list this weekend against the Milwaukee Brewers vanished Friday afternoon when the Nationals announced their starters for Saturday (Aníbal Sánchez) and Sunday (Erick Fedde).

Despite Manager Dave Martinez describing Scherzer as feeling “really good right now,” the team didn’t want its ace pushing it. Instead, the Nationals will have Scherzer throw a simulated game Saturday, his second of the IL stint. Delaying his return again made for a difficult conversation between Scherzer and Martinez.

“It’s trying. Very trying,” Martinez said of the discussions. “He wants to pitch. I don’t blame him. To be honest with you, I want him to pitch. But we have to be smart. And we want to make sure when he comes back, he’s back with us for the rest of the season.”

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Scherzer threw 32 pitches in the first simulated game and met with a doctor afterward. Martinez expects the second one to be “a little bit heavier” with the goal of increasing the 35-year-old’s pitch count to 80 before sending him out for a game. Martinez hinted Scherzer might need a third simulated game and acknowledged this was somewhat like a spring training regimen for building arm strength. He said the important element to monitor, as it has been for a couple of weeks, is not how Scherzer pitches but how he recovers.

Scherzer still might be on a pitch count when he returns. It seems the decision to shelve Scherzer this weekend came from management’s concern that Scherzer might push himself beyond a pitch count anyway.

“We’re dealing with Max,” Martinez said. “He’s got a limit, but he’s going to fight you because he says: ‘I feel great. I’m ready to go.’ Like, no. That’ll be another discussion.”

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The team considered sending Scherzer on a minor league rehab assignment but elected not to because, Martinez said, “we want to make sure we have eyes on him.” As August wears on and the pennant race tightens, Martinez and the Nationals’ brass won’t be the only ones.

Brewers (63-58)

Lorenzo Cain, CF

Keston Hiura, 2B

Christian Yelich, RF

Ryan Braun, LF

Yasmani Grandal, 1B

Mike Moustakas, 3B

Manny Pina, C

Orlando Arcia, SS

Adrian Houser, RHP

Nationals (65-55)

Trea Turner, SS

Adam Eaton, RF

Anthony Rendon, 3B

Juan Soto, LF

Matt Adams, 1B

Brian Dozier, 2B

Victor Robles, CF

Yan Gomes, C

Patrick Corbin, LHP

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