Mets co-ace Max Scherzer added new element to oblique rehab: golf
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Thinking of his troublesome oblique, Max Scherzer tried to make his hobby helpful during the offseason.
He played golf — a routine occurrence among baseball players, especially for those who take the mound once every five days — more frequently and with a different purpose in recent months, treating it as “part of the rehab,” he said, and aiming to use his vicious swing to the benefit of his side muscles.
“I was really getting into it, really winding up and having to uncoil explosively, making sure I’m firing almost more so than I would be throwing a baseball,” explained Scherzer, a self-described “big believer in cross-training.”
“A golf club is lighter than a baseball bat. Really able to fire at 100% and really create as much torque as I could with speed, not power. That was a benefit from that.”
Mets decision-makers seemed skeptical of the benefit but were comfortable letting a pitcher of his pedigree do (almost) anything he wanted.
“Whatever he needs to do to enjoy being a professional baseball player, he should do,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. “Do I think it’s going to help his oblique? I don’t know. I can’t answer that question.”
Manager Buck Showalter added: “Max’s ideas always have great reasoning behind them. Nobody knows his body better than Max does. Anybody that’s had the longevity he’s had, he’ll win the tiebreaker [in a debate] every time. I pick my battles.”
Scherzer’s desire to swing stemmed from his left oblique injuries last season. The first strain caused him to miss about seven weeks from late May through early July. He blamed himself for pitching through tightness, making it worse and ending up hurt, vowing to avoid doing so again.
But when his side bothered him a second time in September — requiring another trip to the injured list, pausing his season at a time when he wanted to pitch as much as possible — he didn’t know why. He prides himself on understanding his body, so failing that time boggled his mind.
He came to wonder if a lack of batting practice — a part of his routine that was removed in 2022 because the National League adopted the DH rule — was to blame. Scherzer, the 38-year-old winner of three Cy Young Awards, went as far as to lug a bat out to the faraway centerfield cages in Oakland during the Mets’ late September visit there to take a few swings.
The Mets’ season ended shortly thereafter, so that was about as far as swinging a bat went. But in October, Scherzer said, he started golfing four times per week. He viewed it as a functional-movement supplement to the strength and stretching he long has done for the oblique.
His approach to swinging the club more violently and with a greater range of motion than usual wound up “completely destroying” his normal swing, he said, but oh, well.
“[A golf swing] really exposes you, more so than a baseball swing. You’re really getting some hip/shoulder separation,” Scherzer said. “So it doesn’t make for a good golf swing. Doesn’t help with the golf game. What I was trying to get out of it was different.
“Having something rotational and explosive like that, high speed — I need to bring some of that back into my day-to-day life.”
Hip/shoulder separation refers to the way a pitcher contorts his body, especially his torso, to transfer energy through the kinetic chain (and throw really, really hard).
“You have to be able to get complete shoulder/hip separation and be able to fire out of that,” he said. “So when you actually think of it, a baseball bat, do it with a golf club — those are really actually good, getting your body to create that torque in your hips.”
He stopped briefly and added, “It makes sense to me.”
Anything for the sake of a healthier oblique.
“The more I swing,” he said, “the better it feels.”
Will he swing a bat regularly this season?
“I don’t know if I can get cleared for BP,” Scherzer said. “I’ve tried. We’ll see.”