- The Washington Times
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Max Scherzer Watch continued Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.

Scherzer was expected to throw a telling bullpen session. Instead, the Nationals’ Cy Young candidate only threw from flat ground in right field. At the conclusion of his throwing session, Scherzer had a lengthy talk with Nationals head trainer Paul Lessard before heading back to the clubhouse.

Scherzer and Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Tuesday that Scherzer would throw a bullpen session Wednesday to test his “tweaked” right hamstring. Scherzer explained that it was difficult to measure how the muscle responds without throwing 100 percent from a mound. He was expected to perform that level of test Wednesday. He did not.

Before Scherzer threw on the field, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was non-committal about when the 2016 Cy Young Award winner would pitch in the National League Division Series between the Nationals and Chicago Cubs, which begins Friday night at Nationals Park. Game 2 is Saturday night. A travel day follows. Game 3 is Monday in Chicago at a to-be-determined time.

“We haven’t made the decision of when we’re going to pencil him in yet as far as where he’s going to pitch in the rotation here in the playoffs,” Rizzo said. “Suffice it to say he’s going to pitch in the playoffs here against the Cubs. It just depends on how he feels — which game we’re going to implement him in.”

The circumstances continue to point to Stephen Strasburg starting Game 1 for the Nationals. Their first starter will be announced Thursday. That pitcher is also obligated to have a press conference the day before he pitches.

If Scherzer is pushed back to Game 3, that means he can start just once in the series. If he starts Game 2, he could come back on regular rest for Game 5, should it be necessary.

“The reason for holding him back would be the concern on the hamstring,” Rizzo said. “We want him to be as close to 100 percent as we can get for him to pitch.”

The Cubs, by contrast, announced their first four starters for the series on Wednesday. Right-handed Kyle Hendricks, who has been the Cubs’ best pitcher since the All-Star break, will start Game 1. Left-handers Jon Lester and Jose Quintana follow in Games 2 and 3, respectively. Jake Arrieta, who also has a hamstring issue, is scheduled to pitch Game 4.

The Nationals other main injury concern, Bryce Harper, continued to do his work on the field Wednesday. He faced live left-handed pitching during a simulated game.

“He feels good,” Rizzo said. “He feels healthy. It was good to see him run the bases aggressively and 100 percent. When the game is at its highest and the lights are at their brightest, he’ll be at his best.”

Goodwin says he feels good

Nationals center fielder Brian Goodwin didn’t think he would still be discussing his injury status Oct. 4. The groin injury that put him on the 10-day disabled list Aug. 16, retroactive to Aug. 14, became such a nag that it cut off the final two months of Goodwin’s season. He hasn’t played in a major-league game since Aug. 13. He was marooned in West Palm Beach, Florida, to work against instructional league pitchers after the injury.

Wednesday, sitting sweat-covered at his locker inside the Nationals’ clubhouse, Goodwin said he felt the same as he did before he was injured and that his timing at the plate is in place.

“I hope it looks that way,” Goodwin said. “But when I’m out there I feel good. I don’t feel like I have to second guess or hesitate or anything like that, just go out and do me.”

Baker appears to be deciding between Goodwin, Victor Robles or Alejandro De Aza for the final outfield spot on the postseason roster.

Rizzo repeats the expectation Baker will return

A day after Baker, who is in the final year of his contract, said he thinks his chances of returning to the Nationals are good, Rizzo relayed the same thought.

“We have not [had any recent discussions],” Rizzo said. “We talk every day, and we’re both confident that he’ll be back with us, but we haven’t had any conversations about it. And we will not do so until we finalize this season.”

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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