You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Why Scherzer's ring finger fracture could help in the long run

When Max Scherzer decided not to play in the World Baseball Classic because of what he and the team called a "stress fracture in his right ring finger," something seemed odd. Scherzer is not one to be derailed by minor impediments such as a sore knuckle. Plus, he did not pitch like an injured man down the stretch of what became a Cy Young Award-winning season.

But official word from Scherzer and unofficial word from those familiar with the situation is that Scherzer did, indeed, feel the trouble midway through last season. As he said in the statement he released on Twitter, the trouble did not affect his pitching, so Scherzer continued to pitch. It did not go away, so he decided not to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, which might turn out well for the Nationals.

The WBC felt like a dangerous endeavor for Scherzer, who treasures big moments. Determination such as his is exactly what a team should want in an ace, but it is also the result of an unrelenting competitive spirit. If Scherzer found himself in a win-or-go-home game in an international competition, he would be unlikely to dial himself down with an eye toward the major league season.

"I've seen different games and videos where the fans are going crazy, especially for the Latin American countries," Scherzer said in December. "It seems like those fans are crazy out there. Seems like an environment that I want to pitch in."

But while Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has reiterated his support of Team USA and his willingness to let his players participate, he must feel some relief that Scherzer will not. No one has thrown more innings in the past five seasons than Scherzer. No Nationals starter is guaranteed more money over the next five seasons than Scherzer. No starter is more crucial to the health of his rotation -- and perhaps his entire roster -- than Scherzer. His decisions to commit to the WBC, then pull out, casts a spotlight on an unheralded part of Scherzer's value to the Nationals: health risk management.

Often, a player's ability to stay healthy depends on toughness, luck or circumstances beyond a player's control. But Scherzer, though tough and certainly lucky of late, also has a profound awareness of the difference between being hurt and being injured. Scherzer dealt with a jammed finger early in the 2015 season, and had to push a start back because of it. Otherwise, he has avoided schedule-altering trouble beside fatigue.

But Scherzer has not been perfectly healthy throughout those two seasons, because no baseball player stays perfectly healthy through eight months of work. Like many players, Scherzer generally does not admit he pitched with a nick here or a bruise there. But he is meticulous and dogged in self-assessment. At one point last season, for example, Scherzer noticed the process of throwing his change-up was taking a little more out of him than usual, and that he was feeling strain in places he did not usually feel it. He checked the video, identified the problem, and worked to tweak his delivery with a near imperceptible shift in his arm path.

Scherzer has said he can often pitch through a nick here and there without concern of greater injury because he is aware of ways in which he might compensate and able to adjust around them. That does not mean his mechanics are garrisoned against occasional devolution. But he does know how to tinker. He will not have to tinker through the WBC now, or wrestle with his own competitiveness and self-preservation instincts at the same time.

Instead, he will rehab his ring finger (whatever that entails) and expects to be fully ready for spring training. Instead of being tempted to call on his full arsenal in February, Scherzer can ramp up slowly, his preferred approach to spring training. Instead of having to be cautious in navigating those high-energy environments that drew him to the WBC, Scherzer will begin his year with a similarly exciting bout of live batting practice or two.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

WNBA is helping officials raise their game
WNBA is helping officials raise their game

Last year’s WNBA finals were deemed an instant classic. Lifted by an emotional Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike’s game-winning shot in the final seconds, the Los Angeles Sparks captured the title in a decisive Game 5 on the road against the Minnesota Lynx in front of a sold-out crowd at Target Center. It was women’s professional...
Will Hayward remain the face of the Utah Jazz?

First round: Their own (No. 24), Golden State's (No. 30). Second round: Detroit's (No. 42), Their own (No. 55). $31.3 million. (Eight players with $65.7 million in guaranteed contracts, four draft picks worth $4.6 million). Doesn't include a player option for Gordon Hayward or non-guaranteed contracts for Boris Diaw or Raul Neto. PG George Hill, PG...
Five players key to US World Cup qualifiers are sharp as European seasons wrap

The end of European club seasons will dovetail with the resumption of U.S. World Cup qualifiers, a timely transition as Coach Bruce Arena makes final roster decisions before training camp opens next Monday in the Denver area.   Players outside of MLS have always comprised a key block of the squad and, with the Americans aiming to make a move...
Global soccer power FC Barcelona plants its flag in the U.S. youth market
Global soccer power FC Barcelona plants its flag in the U.S. youth market

Off a two-lane country road, where new construction seeps into Virginia farmland and jets approach Washington Dulles International Airport, one of the world's iconic sports brands has driven a claret-and-blue stake into the fertile ground of U.S. youth soccer. Some 4,000 miles from the grandeur of FC Barcelona's Camp Nou Stadium, banners proclaiming...
Mike Trout: Baseball’s best, without the brand
Mike Trout: Baseball’s best, without the brand

It was Mike Trout bobblehead night at Angel Stadium last Tuesday, but if you missed it, don’t worry. There are three more on the Angels’ schedule. Trout’s face appears on billboards throughout greater Los Angeles, and you can also find him pitching sandwiches, sports drinks, SuperPretzels and shoes. A recent Twitter post, to 2.25...
More Stories