Scherzer might not be available for opening day

The Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Neither Max Scherzer nor Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker is certain the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner will be ready to pitch when opening day rolls around.

The right-hander is dealing with pain from a broken knuckle on the ring finger of his throwing hand, an injury that arose last season but was not diagnosed until December.

“I’ve dealt with aches and pains and strains. This is a whole different ballgame,” Scherzer said Thursday.

“When you start dealing with a fracture, rest is really your only option to make everything heal.”

Thursday was the first day of official workouts for Washington’s pitchers and catchers. While others such as Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez stood atop a mound for a 10-minute bullpen session, Scherzer threw elsewhere.

Only this week did Scherzer start throwing baseballs at all in preparation for the 2017 season, and that was “with a modified grip, but not my true grip,” he said. Before that, he was sticking to tossing tennis or lacrosse balls, because they were smaller and not as painful.

“There’s nothing any of us can do until he feels 100 percent,” Baker said, “and you certainly don’t want to rush him, because you’re thinking about the long haul.”

Scherzer went 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 284 strikeouts last season, including a record-tying 20 strikeouts in one game.

Scherzer called the bottom knuckle on his ring finger “essentially healed,” but did not offer an answer when asked whether he’ll be ready for opening day.

“I don’t even want to comment on it, because I don’t even know what I’m going to be able to do or not,” he said. “It’d be unfair for me to even project or even talk about that.”

Asked about the possibility of not having Scherzer at the start of the season, Baker replied: “You hate to lose Max for any period of time.

But … that’s just speculation right now. We don’t know. But you certainly have to prepare for that.”