WASHINGTON — Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer bounded up the stairs from the dugout to the field on his way to his usual post-start catch Sunday, the white compression sleeve on his right leg the only indication that he was dealing with what the two-time Cy Young Award winner said an MRI exam showed was a “tweaked” hamstring.
Scherzer left his last regular-season start after only 3 1/3 innings on Saturday night after feeling something in his hamstring while throwing a changeup. The club sent Scherzer for an MRI as a precaution.
“Showed exactly what we thought: Nothing major. More of a tool to help know how we need to treat it. We have a pretty good idea of what we need to be able to do to get back out there. The good news thing about this is, I can walk and run around on this. It’s not a major strain or anything, where it’s debilitating,” Scherzer said Sunday in the home clubhouse at Nationals Park. “So I’m pretty upbeat and positive about going forward here.”
What he would not do is weigh in on whether he would pitch Friday in Game 1 or Saturday in Game 2 of NL East champion Washington’s NL Division Series against the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
“It’s tough to say right now, when we’re not even 24 hours out” from the leg problem surfacing, Scherzer said. “We’re still trying to get all the doctors to take a look at this and make sure that we have the absolutely correct diagnosis. But we have a really, really good idea of what we’ve got here.”
The Nationals have not said whether Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg is their planned Game 1 starter. Manager Dusty Baker said after Washington’s 11-8 loss to Pittsburgh in the regular-season finale Sunday that Scherzer’s situation “probably” would affect that decision.
“But he’s going to be fine,” Baker said about Scherzer. “It’s just a matter of we got to determine when that is.”
Scherzer, who won the NL Cy Young Award last season to go with his 2013 AL honor for Detroit, is a contender again this season. He leads the NL in strikeouts with 268 and his 2.51 ERA is second to Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Scherzer finished with a 16-6 record.
“It’s never good when your ace walks off the mound in the fourth inning of the second-to-last game of the season,” Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said, “but he feels optimistic about it.”
This is the latest health issues in 2017 for Scherzer, who spent time on the disabled list in August with a neck problem and left a start in early September after a batted ball struck his left calf.
“Frustrating as all get-out. I’ve done such a good job of taking care of my body over the course of my career and have never come out of starts, and this year I think I’ve come out of three. That’s frustrating for me, because I always take pride in pitching deep into games and taking the ball every fifth day,” said Scherzer, who bounced on his toes in the clubhouse to show reporters his leg felt fine.
“Unfortunately, some of these injuries are out of my control right now. Because I’m doing everything I can to stay out there on the mound and to try to be healthy, but unfortunately, I’ve got a few ailments,” he said.
NOTE: RHP Shawn Kelley said that no decision has been made on how to treat the bone chips in his right elbow that limited the range of motion in his pitching arm even more than it already was after two Tommy John surgeries. In addition, he said Sunday, he “started having sensations in my hand and numbness and tingling and stuff.” An operation is a possibility. “We’re still waiting to consult with people and try to get the best plan of attack,” said Kelley, who went on the 60-day disabled list Saturday. “Obviously, I’ve got a special case with my elbow. It’s very fragile.”
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