PORT ST. LUCIE — Max Scherzer’s bothersome right hamstring scratched him from a final spring training start Saturday, leaving further questions about the rotation as the Mets prepare to break camp.
A day after Jacob deGrom was diagnosed with a stress reaction on his right scapula that will keep him on the injured list for a significant stretch to begin the season, the 37-year-old Scherzer’s hamstring became a focal point.
The right-hander said he felt tightness in the muscle while running Thursday, but still expected to pitch in a minor league game two days later. But upon loosening up for his appearance the hamstring tightened and he didn’t want to risk further injury.
Scherzer is the obvious choice to replace deGrom as the Opening Day starter in Washington on Thursday, but says it’s “too soon” to say if that remains an option.
“That’s just where you have the conversations with the people above you,” Scherzer said. “I have been up to 90 pitches and my arm feels great. I definitely have that working for me. What you want to do moving forward, how you want to progress with it, it’s all dictated in how well the hamstring feels. I am not worried about this in the long term, but it’s something you have got to deal with right now.”
Manager Buck Showalter hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Scherzer for the opener, even without another spring training start.
“I think he has already built up more volume than most people at this time,” Showalter said. “I don’t think there is that necessity.”
Chris Bassitt will remain on schedule and pitch in Sunday’s exhibition game, according to Showalter, which means the earliest he could pitch on full rest in the regular season is Friday.
Showalter indicated his goal is to avoid putting his entire rotation in “disarray” just to fill one spot, meaning Thursday. The Opening Day start was originally intended for deGrom, with Scherzer set for Friday.
Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker are behind Bassitt in the rotation. The Mets are still considering candidates — mainly Tylor Megill, David Peterson and Trevor Williams — to fill deGrom’s rotation spot.
Scherzer, who arrived in the offseason on a three-year contract worth $130 million, indicated he isn’t concerned with his hamstring, based on his history with such injuries.
“I’ve had kind of these little hamstring injuries before and they go away in days,” Scherzer said. “I am fortunate enough, I have been pretty good to not have serious hamstring injuries, I have just had little hiccups and I think this is the same thing.
“I think this is a little hiccup. I just have to address it, so I am working with the training staff to identify what is causing it because it’s frustrating, because I have really worked hard this offseason to really lift my legs heavy, do all the running. I feel like I was in a really good spot with my body and my arm, and it’s frustrating to have my arm at this point and have a little hiccup in my leg.”
Scherzer said it was “tough news” to learn that deGrom would be out for an extended stretch. DeGrom has been shut down from throwing for up to four weeks and will then have to build up again.
“Just talking to him he thought it was something kind of minor,” Scherzer said, referring to deGrom’s initial shoulder tightness. “It turns out it’s a little bit more than minor. For him to be shut down for a few weeks now you have got to adjust that, so for him it’s try to figure out this injury. Figure out exactly what this is and attack it with everything you have got.”