Max Scherzer has come to grips with a finger injury — by coming up with a new, unusual grip for his fastball.
The Washington Nationals ace won the NL Cy Young Award last season despite a stress fracture on his right ring finger in the second half. The problem didn't totally heal during the winter, so Scherzer is trying something different this spring.
"It is strange that I am throwing with three fingers," Scherzer said.
His normal fastball grip — the one used by nearly every pitcher in the pros — employs two fingers on top of the ball with the ring finger bent along the side, providing stability in the hand.
That formation aggravates Scherzer's injury by pressing the ball onto the knuckle. Earlier this spring, he straightened the ring finger, placing it on top of the ball along with his middle and index finger, a grip that alleviates the pressure and pain.
"What else am I going to do?" Scherzer said. "I'm willing to do it. I want to do it. It's just part of what I've got to go out there and do — to pitch right now."
On Tuesday, Scherzer faced live hitters for the first time this spring, throwing a live batting practice session to minor league hitters on one of the complex's back fields prior to the Nationals' game against Boston.
With manager Dusty Baker and general manager Mike Rizzo looking on, Scherzer worked from both the windup and the stretch, simulating two innings of action. He threw 44 pitches during the outing, the majority of which were fastballs.
The Nationals didn't have a radar gun present, but Scherzer said he didn't sense a drop in velocity with the three-fingered grip. He said it seemed to him the ball had the same spin as it normally did with a two-finger grip.
Scherzer doesn't know the timeline for his next action and wouldn't commit to the next step, which could be a simulated game or even Grapefruit League action.
"We don't have a target day because we don't know how he's going to come out of this," Baker said. "We'll see how he comes out of this."
The 32-year-old Scherzer went 20-7 last season with a 2.96 ERA and a major league-leading 284 strikeouts. He also won the 2013 AL Cy Young with Detroit.
AROUND THE GRAPEFRUIT AND CACTUS LEAGUES
CARDINALS 9, MARLINS 2
Adam Wainwright threw three scoreless innings and Jhonny Peralta drove in two runs with a double and triple. Dexter Fowler added two hits for St. Louis.
Marlins starter Tom Koehler gave up three earned runs on five hits and two walks over three innings.
RED SOX 5, NATIONALS 3
Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez both hit solo home runs off Washington starter Joe Ross. Pablo Sandoval had a two-run single for Boston.
Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez allowed two earned runs on four hits and a walk over three innings.
Reigning NL Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer threw a live batting practice session for the first time this spring as he rehabs a stress fracture in the lower knuckle of his right ring finger.
PIRATES 6, BRAVES 3
Pirates prospect Jose Osuna hit his third home run this season. Atlanta starter Jaime Garcia gave up two runs on two hits and two walks and struck out four over two innings.
YANKEES 7, RAYS 6, 10 INNINGS
CC Sabathia pitched two shutout innings for the Yankees. Adam Warren took over and gave up two earned runs on four hits and a walk over three innings.
Chris Carter had an RBI single and Tyler Wade singled home Pete Kozma for the game-winner.
Rays starter Jake Odorizzi allowed an earned run on five hits, striking out four, over two innings. Willy Adames and Corey Dickerson hit solo home runs for Tampa Bay.
PHILLIES 11, TIGERS 6
Tigers starter Justin Verlander gave up one earned run on four hits and two walks in three innings. Andrew Romine had three hits.
Brock Stassi hit his third home run this spring, a grand slam. Phillies starter Aaron Nola went two innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits and a walk.
CANADA 7, BLUE JAYS 1
Former ace closer Eric Gagne worked around a hit and walk in one scoreless inning for Team Canada during a tuneup for the World Baseball Classic. At 41, he hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008. His fastball consistently hit 93 mph, and Gagne is hoping a solid performance in the tournament could spur a comeback in the big leagues.
ORIOLES 5, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 4
Baltimore star Manny Machado was hitless while playing third base for the Dominican Republic team. The Orioles scored twice against Dellin Betances, who walked two and gave up a hit.
Pitchers in the World Baseball Classic are limited in how much they can throw, so the Orioles gave minor leaguer Jefri Hernandez to the Dominican side — he then gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth, making a throwing error and tossing a game-ending wild pitch.
ATHLETICS 21, DIAMONDBACKS 13
A's starter Sonny Gray allowed the first five batters to reach and score, including a three-run homer by Ketel Marte. Gray completed two innings and allowed seven earned runs on five hits and four walks. Marcus Semien went 3 for 3 with four RBIs while Yonder Alonso and Trevor Plouffe each had two hits. Oakland scored 11 runs in the sixth.
Arizona starter Shelby Miller gave up six earned runs on five hits and two walks over 2 2/3 innings.
REDS 7, ROYALS 3
Eugenio Suarez and Ryan Raburn each hit home runs and Joey Votto had two hits for Cincinnati.
Mike Moustakas and Billy Burns homered, and Kansas City starter Travis Wood gave up two earned runs on four hits and a walk over 2 2/3 innings. Chris Young gave up a pair of homers, but struck out five, in three innings.
GIANTS 4, DODGERS 2
Clayton Kershaw pitched three hitless innings for Los Angeles.
Giants starter Matt Moore struck out five over three shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks. Jae-gyun Hwang and Mac Williamson both hit their second home runs.
ROCKIES 3, RANGERS 2
Trevor Story connected for a two-run shot off Yu Darvish, and DJ LeMahieu went 3 for 3 with a run. Darvish went three innings and allowed two runs on four hits and two walks.
Mike Napoli homered for Texas.
PADRES 7, MEXICO 3
Wil Myers doubled down the left-field line for the first of seven Padres to finish with one RBI. Starter Walker Lockett pitched two scoreless innings.
Mexico starter Luis Mendoza gave up five hits and four earned runs in two innings. Luis Urias, a fast-rising prospect for the Padres, got two hits 4 against his big league club.
ITALY 8, CUBS 7
John Lackey pitched two scoreless innings for the Cubs, with one hit and one strikeout in front of 10,762 at Sloan Park. Taylor Davis hit a two-run homer in the sixth and Chris Dominguez added a three-run drive to give the Cubs the lead in the sixth.
Italy's Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini — who both play for Mets — each had two hits and Rob Segedin won it with a two-run homer in the ninth.