Look at Max Scherzer’s numbers at this major checkpoint of the season, and they are about what you'd expect: 2.22 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, well over a strikeout per inning.
Combine those with what he is even when not on the mound — respected veteran clubhouse leader, sounding board and pseudo-coach to the younger and not-so-young other pitchers, general bar-raiser for intensity and competitiveness — and he has been everything the Mets sought when they signed him to the largest free-agent contract in franchise history last offseason.
But in Scherzer’s eyes, these opening months of his Mets tenure were frustrating and disappointing.
“The way I think is, yeah, I’ve gone out there and pitched well, and that’s great,” he said last weekend, after he went into “Max mode,” as manager Buck Showalter described it, in striking out 11 Cubs in 6 1/3 innings. “But to have that injury — I pride myself on durability, always taking the ball. I really felt like to be out for six weeks, miss six or seven starts, for me that’s unacceptable. You can’t do that.
“My job as a pitcher is to go out there every single time, take it every single time. Yes, I’ve done some great things. Yes, I’m pitching well. I expect that out of myself. But I can’t get hurt. I can’t get hurt like that. And I can’t get hurt in the second half like that.”
Scherzer’s emphasis on the second half, which begins Friday when the Mets open a five-game homestand against the Padres (through Sunday) and Yankees (Tuesday and Wednesday), is even more important given the uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom.
More than a year removed from his last major-league appearance, deGrom is scheduled to pitch a simulated game on Thursday — two days later than originally expected because of shoulder soreness. He hasn’t pitched at all this year because of a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade. The Mets have not said whether Thursday will be his final tune-up before returning or how his recent soreness impacts his rehab overall.
When the Mets nabbed Scherzer on a three-year, $130 million deal in November, he was signing on in a best-case scenario to be a co-ace with deGrom and in a worst-case scenario insurance for deGrom if he was hurt this year (which has been the case) or opts out of his contract after this year (which he has said will be the case).
Scherzer is supposed to be there, even — and especially — when deGrom isn’t. That is why what happened on May 18 still bothers him. He felt a little something in his left oblique as he faced the Cardinals and thought he could pitch through it. For Scherzer, who has dealt with lots of minor soft-tissue injuries in recent years and prides himself on being a workhorse and knowing his body, the outcome was a surprise: one pitch too many, a strained left oblique and nearly seven weeks on the sidelines.
It was the longest in-season absence of his career. He blames himself.
“Because that one was 100% on me,” Scherzer said. “I knew what I was dealing with. I thought I was going to be able to get through the sixth inning in that game and I didn’t. I came one batter away from doing it, but I didn’t. And that’s on me. I realize that. I gotta be smarter in the future, if I come into a situation where I have a nagging injury, something tightened up in a game, I gotta be smarter now. Hopefully just learn from it and move on.”
Kirby has surgery. First-base coach Wayne Kirby’s operation Tuesday was cancer removal surgery, his daughter, Caylee Kirby, said on Twitter. Doctors discovered the cancer at the start of the season. Showalter said recently that Kirby had wanted to wait until the end of the baseball year to get it taken care of, but he and others encouraged him to do it now. “We’re very glad he’s getting it done,” Showalter said. Kirby is expected to miss at least the first few days after the break.