Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer’s balky neck earns DL stint

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 07: Starting pitcher Max Scherzer
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 07: Starting pitcher Max Scherzer /

Washington Nationals ace pitcher Max Scherzer lands on the disabled list after another neck inflammation. He expects to return this week.

The Washington Nationals can take a deep breath.

Although Max Scherzer landed on the disabled list for neck inflammation, the issue appears to be muscular and not structural. He hopes to take the hill next Friday against the New York Mets. This Friday’s scratch versus the San Diego Padres was the second time this year he either missed or had a shortened start.

Winners of seven out of their last ten, the Nats hold a commanding 14-game lead in the National League East over the improving Miami Marlins. The lead remains constant despite the Marlins matching Washington’s recent run.

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To have Scherzer miss a start or two for an annoying injury will not alter the balance. The less he throws now, the less wear on his magic arm come October. An extra inning for the playoffs is worth its weight in gold.

Because this is the second time Scherzer has suffered neck pain, the focus shifts to management. If it is a disk or other structural issue, those treatments are invasive and likely will delay the start of his 2018. If this is a sleep wrong and overuse thing, rest and a schedule of pills and swelling reduction is the option.

In his first start after cutting the Miami game short, he struck out nine Marlins over seven innings in Washington. Scherzer’s next game versus the San Francisco Giants, he punched out 10 over seven. The arm and his tricky ring finger are fine.

Getting to the bottom of the neck injury is different. Overuse is painful. Although necks are not huge in pitching mechanics, concentrating through pain is. The swollen muscles are attached to the shoulder. It matters.

It is hard during the season to practice the best remedy of rest. Pitchers throw on their off-days along with general workouts. To take a few days and do nothing is tough. Yet, tossing Scherzer on the disabled list gives him time to do nothing. Let those muscles heal, get the neck cracked once or twice and return to the task at hand.

As Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound Saturday, the Scherzer injury will not add to the depth situation the Nats face. If he returns as expected, the divisional situation dictates a reduction of work. No need to risk an injury when the result is a done deal.

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At worst for Scherzer, and the Nats, it is a genuine pain in the neck.