Nationals righty Max Scherzer has been diagnosed with what the club is calling a “stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger.” Per the organization’s announcement, Scherzer will not participate as planned in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Though the injury will knock Scherzer out of the international tournament, he is expected “to be a full participant” in spring camp. That’s certainly a promising element to the injury, which otherwise represents a somewhat concerning development for the 32-year-old workhorse.
Scherzer himself provided further details on his injured finger via Twitter. The issue actually arose in August, but did not prevent him from pitching (and performing quite well) down the stretch and into the postseason. Though he made plans to rest and then ramp up for the WBC, an MRI showed that he had a stress fracture which would necessitate further rest.
Given the diagnosis, it’s not at all surprising that a conservative course will be pursued. Washington will obviously want to protect its ongoing investment in Scherzer, who has earned just $30MM of the $210MM promised by the team in his seven-year contract. While deferrals reduce the overall value of that deal, there’s a lot riding on his ability to continue functioning as a top-level starter over the next five campaigns.
Beyond this newly disclosed injury, there’s plenty of reason for optimism. Scherzer has been one of the game’s most productive pitchers for some time now. After several strong but not overwhelming seasons with the Tigers, he turned in a Cy Young campaign in 2013 and has not looked back since. Scherzer most recently provided the Nats with 228 1/3 frames of 2.96 ERA ball in 2016, leading to a fourth-straight All-Star berth and another Cy Young award. He has also been exceptionally durable, making at least thirty starts in every season since 2009.
The Nationals are said to be looking to add rotation depth regardless, but any uncertainty surrounding Scherzer would certainly add to that interest. Washington dealt with injuries late in 2016 to such key staff members as Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, and dealt away two near-term rotation options earlier this winter (Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez) in the Adam Eaton trade.