The ace of the Washington Nationals returned Monday after neck spasms ended his last start early. How did he look and what happens next?
Scherzer, who left his last start in Miami with neck spasms, was not pain-free. But, he struck out nine over seven innings, scattering two runs and five hits. Tossing 114 pitches, he dictated the pace of the game.
You got the sense from watching Scherzer was out to make a point to himself. From the start, he stalked around the mound. His pitches had bite, and the ace drew 18 swing-and-miss strikes. When the Marlins made contact, he induced nine grounders, the highest total in a month.
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Although this was not vintage Scherzer, average Max is dominant.
The key for Scherzer is pain management. He pulled himself last week after a warm-up pitch between innings. After a visit to a chiropractor and an extra day, he went out Monday and pitched well. As he usually does, everything stayed on the mound.
Injuries requiring adjustments take time to heal. Rest and as little movement as possible, along with painkillers, heat and ice are the best treatment. Ultimately, it boils down to how much it hurts. If Scherzer cannot damage whatever causes the spasms more, then it turns into a comfort game. As long as he can tolerate the pain, along with pitching well, then you will see him every fifth day.
Remember, Scherzer pitched the last two months of the regular season and twice in the playoffs with a broken knuckle in his pitching ring finger. If gripping a hard ball 200 times a start did not slow his ability, the neck is a piece of cake.
By August, no player is pain free. With holding the largest division lead of the season, manager Dusty Baker will continue to shuffle his lineup around ensuring players get rest. A 14-game lead this late buys security.
When rosters expand to 40 in three weeks, expect the Nats to move to a six-man rotation. Although keeping Scherzer fresh and ready, the emergence of Erick Fedde and AJ Cole give Baker the same options with the pitchers as he has with the hitters.
This is important for Stephen Strasburg whenever he comes off the disabled list too. You must keep in pitching shape, but need to limit the chance of further injury.
Scherzer calls his own shots. If he feels there is no risk of further damage, he will take is turn and give maximum effort. Any flare-ups and he will skip. The end game is October.