After coming off of the injured list to start yesterday, Nationals ace Max Scherzer woke up with renewed stiffness in his back, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com reports. It is not clear at this point whether he’ll skip his next scheduled start and/or require a return trip to the 10-day IL.
An MRI taken this morning revealed a mild rhomboid strain. That’s a different issue in the same area of the upper back/shoulder. Scherzer had previously been dealing with an inflamed bursa sac in the vicinity of his shoulder blade. To treat the new problem, Scherzer has undergone a stem-cell injection. His response to that will be assessed in a few days.
While the Nats need every single Scherzer outing they can get, the team is also walking a bit of a tightrope. Allowing the fiery veteran to push himself too hard could easily backfire. And Scherzer wasn’t quite at his best in his return start, though he was still effective and did emphasize that he felt at full health going into and during the outing.
The uncertainty surrounding Scherzer comes at an interesting time for the Nationals. There was already a case to be made that this team could use a starting pitcher. There’s all the more reason to do so now, if only to buy some time to give Scherzer ample rest.
One route would be to grab a fill-in rotation piece that can check down to a relief role. Derek Holland might’ve made sense in that capacity, particularly since the Nats could use a southpaw and he has been so nasty against opposing lefties. But the team didn’t jump on the opportunity, with Holland landing today with the Cubs. Similar hurlers could yet make sense. The tough thing for the D.C. organization will be to balance the imperative to buttress the rotation with a still-glaring need for multiple, quality relief arms.