Mets pitcher Max Scherzer throws against the Tigers in the...

Mets pitcher Max Scherzer throws against the Tigers in the first inning during the second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday in Detroit. Credit: AP/Paul Sancya

CINCINNATI — For Max Scherzer, a literal bump in the road was a sign that he had hit another metaphorical one, too.

He couldn’t move his neck upon waking up Monday, limiting his ability to complete other basic daily tasks. When he drove to Citi Field that morning, for example, and experienced pain every time the car went over even a small pothole, he knew he was in trouble.

Because of “a bad neck spasm,” as he described it, the Mets scratched Scherzer from his scheduled start against the Reds on Tuesday, calling up lefthander David Peterson from Triple-A Syracuse to pitch in his place.

Scherzer, a veteran of this specific issue, which also caused him to miss a World Series game in 2019, was confident he’d miss only a couple of days and would pitch during this weeklong road trip. Manager Buck Showalter said he could take the mound as soon as Thursday.

But the series opener at Great American Ball Park was not an option.

“Once it locks, it takes a few days to get it to unlock,” Scherzer said. “I wish I could pitch. But this thing, when it’s locked up, you can’t do a thing until it subsides.

“I’ve tried being in this state where you just take Toradol [a strong painkiller] and you go, you rip it up. You’ll strain your neck and then you’re definitely on the IL.

 

“There’s really nothing you can do for it other than rest, take some anti-inflammatories and go. It’s going to be a couple of days, but that’s the good news: It’s only going to be a couple of days.”

With his stop-and-start season stopped again, Scherzer still hasn’t been able to get into a regular routine, a set of circumstances that bothered him more than this latest physical hiccup. He has a 5.56 ERA in five starts. Over the past four weeks, he has tossed just 6 1/3 innings, limited by a back issue, a 10-game foreign substance suspension and now the neck problem.

“I’m not frustrated with this,” he said. “I can look everybody in the eye and say I didn’t do anything to jeopardize this, to make this come about. I was doing everything to have it not be like this. If I’m frustrated about this, it’s because of how I’ve pitched. I just want to get out there and pitch and pitch well and get over this and get going on this year.”

Scherzer, 38, is up to at least four physical issues over the past year. He twice hurt his oblique last season. In recent weeks, he has dealt with discomfort in the muscles surrounding his right scapula, which he believed he had gotten past and was looking forward to testing against the Reds. But then the neck problem popped up again.

Neck issues are not new for Scherzer, who spent 10 days on the IL in 2017 with inflammation in his neck. He also was scratched from Game 5 of the 2019 World Series because of neck spasms; he pitched three days later in Game 7. His most recent neck spasm prior to this came in the offseason, he said, a time of year when it didn’t really affect his work.

He felt it coming on again Sunday afternoon but thought he had attacked it properly via dry needling.

“Usually, if I can get in front of it, it doesn’t blow on me,” he said. “I did that, went to bed. I knew: Don’t pick up the kids, don’t do anything like that. I just went home, laid on the couch and went to bed. When I woke up, it was locked.

“There’s literally zero regret. There’s no second-guessing of anything I’ve done. It just happened.”

Is the latest neck spasm related to the back problem?

“That’s a fair logic thing,” he said. “But at the same time, I’ve gotten neck spasms without having a scap injury. So it’s tough to sit there and say that this is directly related to the scap, although we are dealing with something on the right side. So I can’t sit here and say one way or another.”

To make room on the roster for Peterson, the Mets put reliever Jimmy Yacabonis on the 15-day injured list with what they called a left quad strain. That was fortunate in a way for the Mets, who without an IL move would not have been able to bring Peterson back from the minors until Sunday.

“If I told you every little thing they were dealing with every day,” Showalter said, “I could find a reason to IL just about anybody in there if you wanted to go really deep into it.”

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