The No. 1 topic around the Nationals is when ace pitcher Max Scherzer will return to the active roster.
Manager Dave Martinez hopes to have a good idea Wednesday — the day after the right-hander threw a simulated game at Nationals Park.
“He felt good. The next step is recovery. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and we’ll go back from there,” Martinez said before Tuesday’s game with the Cincinnati Reds. “After talking to him, he said he felt really good, so but the whole deal with this injury is his recovery. After tomorrow, if he feels good, the plan is for him to throw a lighter side (perhaps Thursday) and then go from there.”
Scherzer went on the injured list with a mild back strain on July 29, retroactive to July 26.
Martinez said Scherzer threw 63 pitches Tuesday, with 31 coming in the bullpen.
Scherzer headed out to right field in front of the Nationals’ bullpen around 2:30 p.m. as he tried to mimic a normal pitching day.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner took the mound in a nearly empty Nationals Park as teammate Howie Kendrick stood in the box. Kendrick just came off the injured list on Monday.
In a simulated game, batters do not swing at pitches and there were no fielders. Teammates Gerardo Parra and Ryan Zimmerman also stood in to face Scherzer. Zimmerman is currently on the injured list with plantar fasciitis.
To make things as realistic as possible, Parra came to the plate with his walk-up song “Baby Shark” blaring — bringing a smile to Scherzer.
“(Scherzer) was fired up,” Martinez said. “He wanted his walkout music, we got him the walk-on music and we threw in a little Parra Shark for him when Parra was hitting just so he could really feel the whole game atmosphere. Yeah, he loved it.”
Scherzer, who did not address the media Tuesday, has been on the injured list twice this season. He missed 12 games from July 13 to July 25 while dealing with a midback strain.
This will be the first time Scherzer, 35, has not made at least 30 starts since 2008. He has made 20 starts this season. And even if Scherzer started every five days beginning Sunday, he could make only nine starts the rest of the season.
Scherzer has made just three starts in nearly two months.
He fanned 14 in eight innings on June 30 in a win at Detroit.
Scherzer then struck out 11 in seven innings at home July 6 in a win over the Kansas City Royals.
His last start was at home on July 25, when he lasted only five innings while striking out eight against Colorado.
This season, Scherzer is 9-5 with a 2.41 ERA and 189 strikeouts in 1341/3 innings.
“The hurdle has been the recovery after he throws,” Martinez said. “The last couple of times he threw, he didn’t feel anything so that’s why we bumped him up to the sim game today. Hopefully (Wednesday), he comes back and he says ‘Hey I feel like I normally do when I pitch.’ If he says that, then we can move forward.”
The series with the Reds is slated to end Wednesday at 4:05 p.m. with Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (14-5, 3.72) going against the Reds’ Trevor Bauer (10-8, 3.74). Bauer made news last month when he threw the ball over the center field fence in his final game with Cleveland before being traded to the Reds a few days later.
Washington entered Tuesday 63-55, six games back of first-place Atlanta in the National League East.
• Rina Torchinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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