WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals ace and reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer is throwing again, but requires a modified grip of his electric fastball in order to throw it with no pain.
Scherzer threw his first bullpen sessions of Spring Training on Saturday, putting him considerably behind the rest of the pitching staff. The pain comes from a stress fracture in a knuckle on his ring finger, sustained late last season. The hope was that Scherzer would be able to rest the injury this offseason and be ready to go.
The delay in getting started could jeopardize his ability to start Opening Day, but for now, the Nationals are optimistic.
“I’m sure he’s got some pain,” skipper Dusty Baker told the media. “If he didn’t have some pain, [his schedule would] be wide open. But I hear he’s doing better. As far as I’m concerned, he’s ahead of pace from where I think he was when he first got here.
“When he first got here, we didn’t know when he was going to start throwing.”
Scherzer has been dynamite since signing a seven-year, $210 million deal before the 2015 season. In the two seasons since, he has hurled 560 strikeouts, pitched to the tune of 34-19 and been recognized as the best pitcher in the National League.
Any modification to his mechanics, no matter how slight, seems like a risk to the end result, if not the health and connective tissue of the pitcher. Reports seem to indicate that the grip could help Scherzer get ready for the season and build up arm strength, but that he wouldn’t actually use it in a game.
Whether or not that proves true remains to be seen. For now, Scherzer has found a way to throw all of his pitches pain-free, accelerating his return to a Major League mound.