Max Scherzer played catch in the outfield before Sunday afternoon’s game against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park. A few kids in red Scherzer jerseys lined the fence nearby, hoping for a baseball or an autograph or something. But the Washington Nationals’ ace looked deep in thought as he threw, seemingly feeling for his legs with every toss. After he left his start Friday following just 12 pitches because of groin pain, Scherzer was trying to determine whether he can make his next one.
On Sunday morning, Scherzer and Manager Dave Martinez agreed that he will try to throw a bullpen session Monday. If he can and all goes well, he might be able to make his next start, scheduled for Wednesday. If he can’t throw that bullpen, the calculus changes and a move to the injured list seems likely.
“I have to be able to throw a bullpen tomorrow if I’m going to make the start. If I can’t throw the bullpen tomorrow, then yeah, you’re looking at an IL stint, miss one start,” Scherzer said. “That’s the math here.”
Scherzer threw on flat ground Sunday, meaning he did not have to navigate the slope of the mound or the need to drive toward home plate. He was throwing in sneakers, not cleats. He didn’t test the leg by moving around the mound defensively or anything like that.
“It’s there. How fast does this progress? That’s basically what this is. Do you hit a plateau, and it slows out where you’re 100 percent? Or does it get to 100 percent quickly?” Scherzer said. “That groin muscle is crucial to driving through the ball. That’s where I don’t know if I can find a patch around it. … Can I just unload this and then you’re able to pitch through it? It’s not really a pitch-through injury. So it could be little for a while. This isn’t a major injury.”
The 36-year-old and likely future Hall of Famer is as self-aware as it gets, and he has a long history of finding ways to pitch around minor pain. But Scherzer is also aware of the risk that pitching through something poses to his arm and is therefore unlikely to try to go if he believes he would add extra stress to his elbow or shoulder. For now, the Nationals will wait and see.
“As of right now, we’ll go [Jon] Lester, [Patrick] Corbin, TBD,” Martinez said, laying out the starting pitchers for a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates that begins here Monday.
While Scherzer has been able to return to throwing, Stephen Strasburg has yet to do so, Martinez said. The Nationals placed Strasburg on the injured list June 2 with nerve irritation in his neck.
“We’re just waiting for that nerve irritation to go away, and once that [happens], we’ll get him back to throwing,” Martinez said. “He’s going to have to build himself up again. He’s going to have to start throwing some flat ground, long toss, and then we’ll get him back on the mound.”
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