The last spring training of Max Scherzer’s $210 million, seven-year contract with the Washington Nationals is not exactly beginning the way he — or the team — would prefer.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner sprained his left ankle while running to get in shape for the season and so he is not working off a mound yet, unlike teammates such as Stephen Strasburg, the 2019 World Series MVP who is coming off surgery and threw a session alongside other pitchers Friday at the Nationals' spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The good news? Scherzer says his arm is just fine.
“Fortunately, through all this, I’ve been able to keep my strength up. And my arm is ready to go. So as soon as I can get that mobility back in the ankle, I’ll be off the mound here pretty soon,” Scherzer said in a video conference with reporters. “I don’t see this as a long-term injury.”
Manager Dave Martinez said it’s up to him and his coaching staff to make sure Scherzer goes at a pace that his ankle allows.
“Right now, he’s a little ornery,” Martinez said. “He wants to be out there with his teammates and we’re not allowing him to do that.”
Coming off a 5-4 record and a 3.74 ERA during the pandemic-truncated 2020 season, Scherzer said he thinks he’s discovered “a little mechanical thing I can fix that can help everything play up just a little bit more.”
He has gone 84-43 with a 2.80 ERA and 1,463 strikeouts across 1,118 innings over 170 starts during his half-dozen years in Washington.
The 36-year-old right-hander earned a pair of Cy Youngs and five All-Star nods in that span.
“You sign a seven-year deal like that’s forever. But it’s gone by pretty quick, and here we are. Honestly, I don’t know, I’m pretty good about tuning all this ... out,” Scherzer said. “For me, it’s just: Show up to the park and win. Come in and do your job and all the contract stuff takes care of itself.”
Martinez’s thoughts as the leader of the club’s strong rotation enters the last year of his deal?
“I just want him to have the best year of his career, and then whatever happens after that, happens,” Martinez said. “Would I love to have him back here for many, many years? Absolutely. Right now we’ll take it in stride. The biggest thing right now is to get him healthy. Get him back on the mound.”
NOTE: Martinez said Strasburg, who had carpal tunnel surgery on his throwing wrist in August, is “well on his way to open up with us, as if it was a regular spring training.”