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Nationals make two roster moves to clear space for Max Scherzer and Brian Dozier

There is rain in the forecast, but Max Scherzer is readying to return against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday. (Patrick Semansky/AP, File)

PITTSBURGH — Max Scherzer is off the injured list, finally, and Brian Dozier was activated off the paternity list Thursday afternoon. That created a need for two spots on the 25-man roster, and the Nationals cleared those by optioning infielder Adrián Sanchez and pitcher Kyle McGowin to Class AA Harrisburg. Now Washington will sit and wait to see how weather may affect its 7:05 p.m. matchup with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Scherzer is slated to start before the Nationals rush to Chicago for a 2:20 p.m. game Friday. The ace spent most of the past six weeks on the injured list with a mid-back strain, then bursitis in the scapula below his right shoulder blade, then a mild rhomboid muscle strain following a start against the Colorado Rockies on July 25. Scherzer will be on some sort of pitch count Thursday, according to Manager Dave Martinez, but Martinez added that it won’t be a hard number.

The staff and Scherzer will discuss how he feels during the outing. Martinez expects Scherzer to lobby for as many pitches as possible.

Max Scherzer’s return could positively impact the Nats even on the days he doesn’t pitch

“We’re going to let him do his thing but really keep an eye on if he has any high leverage, a lot of pitches in an innings, all that stuff,” Martinez said. “But we’ll have a keen eye on him and really talk to him throughout the game.”

As for whether Scherzer has already started bargaining for more time on the mound, Martinez was avoiding the ace this afternoon.

“No, not yet,” Martinez said. “I’m treating today like any other day. I won’t talk to him until the game starts … that’s for both of us.”

By optioning McGowin, the Nationals’ bullpen is down to seven arms plus Erick Fedde. Joe Ross is scheduled to start Saturday, health-permitting, after he took a comebacker to the leg Monday and was diagnosed with a right shin contusion. Ross threw a bullpen session at PNC Park on Thursday with Martinez watching, and the Nationals are hoping he can make his next start. If he can’t, Fedde will slide in. Otherwise, Fedde could fill McGowin’s role as a long reliever and remain with Washington until rosters expand Sept. 1.

At that point, both are expected to be in the bullpen, with Fedde as rotation insurance in case Ross can’t maintain his recent success. Either way, the Nationals are thrilled to have Scherzer back and hope the rain doesn’t turn his return into an even bigger conundrum.

“He’s ready to go,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, weather-permitting, we’ll keep a close eye on him and see how close he can go.”


Nationals (69-57)

Trea Turner SS

Adam Eaton RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Kurt Suzuki C

Brian Dozier 2B

Victor Robles, CF

Max Scherzer P

Pirates (52-74)

Adam Frazier 2B

Bryan Reynolds LF

Starling Marte CF

Josh Bell 1B

Colin Moran 3B

Melky Cabrera RF

Kevin Newman SS

Elias Diaz C

Steven Brault P

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