Max Scherzer declared himself “good to go” for his New York Mets debut in Friday’s second game of the season against the Washington Nationals, the club he helped win the 2019 World Series.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner developed a problem with his right hamstring late in spring training camp in Florida and there had been some uncertainty about when he would be able to make his first appearance of the regular season.
With fellow Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, twice a Cy Young honoree himself, sidelined for at least a month or two because of a shoulder blade issue, New York’s vaunted rotation appeared to be headed for a slow start under new manager Buck Showalter.
But Scherzer said he came through some fielding work just fine at Nationals Park before Thursday’s game on opening day.
“I knew it was a hiccup. I knew it wasn’t a major, like, injury. I’ve done this a couple times and had an idea what it was,” Scherzer said, speaking to reporters in front of a locker in the visiting team’s clubhouse at the stadium he called home for 6 1/2 seasons until getting sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline in late July.
“I was able to tell Buck: ‘Hey, Buck, I’m good to go,’” he said.
Scherzer became a free agent and signed a three-year, $130 million contract with the Mets, part of a big-spending offseason for owner Steve Cohen.
During his time in Washington after getting a seven-year, $210 million deal before the 2015 season, Scherzer won a pair of NL Cy Young Awards (his other came in 2013 in the AL with Detroit), tossed two no-hitters and had a 20-strikeout game, in addition to helping win a championship two years ago.
Loud applause greeted Scherzer when he came out of the dugout for pregame introductions before Game 1 on Thursday night. A video tribute was shown on the outfield scoreboard, featuring clips from the news conference when he signed with the Nationals and game highlights. It closed with the message “Thank you, Max” and an image of the World Series trophy.
Asked what he expects his return to the mound in the nation’s capital to be like on Friday, Scherzer said: “It’s just going to be a crazy, wild atmosphere.”
“You get used to it — you get used to playing for another team. You go out there and just compete and have fun. A lot of good memories here. There always will be good memories here,” Scherzer said. “But nothing lasts forever. As my baseball journey goes on, I’m here in New York and excited about what the future holds.”
Last season, he went 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA and 236 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings for the Nationals and Dodgers.
“It’s going to be fun. He’s going to try to strike me out. And I will try my best to not strike out, because I know he wants that, really bad,” said Washington right fielder Juan Soto, the 2021 NL MVP runner-up.
He called Scherzer a mentor. Nationals pitcher Erick Fedde described the righty in similar terms.
“Him leaving last year was tough, for me, especially. I hadn’t been in the big leagues without him by my side,” Fedde said. “So it’ll definitely be weird. It’s not going to be fun, knowing the kind of player and competitor he is. But it’s one of those things where you step on the field and he’s on the other side, so hopefully we beat him up.”
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