Nationals ace Max Scherzer has been recovering from a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, and he’s on track to throw off a mound for the first time this spring on Saturday, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com reports. If everything goes according to plan, he’ll progress to bullpen sessions and be game-ready in a couple of weeks, Zuckerman adds. While pitching coach Mike Maddux conceded that Scherzer could be “a start or two” behind the rest of the team’s rotation, the extra time in Spring Training (which was worked in due to the World Baseball Classic) will prove beneficial to Scherzer. Both Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark threw in an intrasquad game today as well, Zuckerman notes — a particularly important note for Strasburg. The 28-year-old righty saw his 2016 season end in early September due to a flexor mass strain but was able to throw his fastball, curveball and changeup in Thursday’s session. More from the NL East… The Mets’ show of faith in Travis d’Arnaud will be all the more interesting to watch now that Matt Wieters has agreed to sign with the division-rival Nationals, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post. The Mets weren’t impressed with Wieters’ defense, Martin reports, which is why the team never embarked on a serious pursuit of the longtime Oriole. Martin spoke to a number of Mets players about the feeling of watching an excellent catcher, Wilson Ramos, depart from the Nationals only to be replaced by another well-reputed backstop. “When you lose a guy like Ramos and back him up with a guy like Wieters, that’s pretty solid,” David Wright said to Martin
The Braves have agreed to sign former NFL defensive back Sanders Commings to a minor league contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Rosenthal wrote earlier this month that the former Kansas City Chiefs and University of Georgia corner had interest in pursuing a baseball career as an outfielder. Commings, who will turn 27 in early March, was a fifth-round pick by the Chiefs back in 2013, though he appeared in just two games with Kansas City in his brief NFL career. He’s no stranger to baseball, having played high school ball in Augusta, Ga., as Rosenthal noted.
Who will be the Cubs’ leadoff man now that Dexter Fowler is gone? Manager Joe Maddon likes the idea of Kyle Schwarber at the top of the lineup, although don’t expect the outfielder to be setting any stolen base records, and that’s not because of a lack of speed.
The Rangers continue to use Spring Training as a time to discuss contract extensions with key players. Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy may be the two most important since they are eligible for free agency. But second baseman Rougned Odor is also on their list.
We’ll track the day’s minor moves here: The Mets have announced the signing of righty Wilfredo Boscan to a minor-league deal that does not include an invite to MLB camp. Boscan, 27, appeared in the majors for the first time last year — he had previously been on an active roster without being handed the ball — though he struggled in limited action. He did, however, managed 169 1/3 innings of 3.14 ERA ball at the Triple-A level, with 5.8 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9. Boscan’s broader track record in the upper minors suggests those results may have been something of an outlier, however; he has allowed more than four earned runs per nine innings over his 467 2/3 lifetime frames at Double-A and Triple-A. In any event, he’ll represent another depth arm for New York to call upon should a need arise this year.
Major League Baseball is back in action, and the schedule is filling up quickly. On Thursday, the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies will play in Spring Training exhibitions.
Giants lefty Will Smith has been shut down for a week after experiencing inflammation in his pitching elbow, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News was among those to report (Twitter links). Fortunately, an MRI has already returned clean, so it seems there’s no worry of a major injury. But while it’s still early, San Francisco’s plan to get Smith ready for Opening Day is already on a tight timeline, Baggarly notes. So long as he can progress after his rest, Smith will be given six spring appearances in preparation for the season. Here’s more from the National League: The Brewers, like the Rays, kept tabs on Matt Wieters up to his agreement with the Nationals, according to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Though Milwaukee GM David Stearns wouldn’t acknowledge whether an offer was made, he acknowledged that there was contact.
With elbow health continuing to generate headlines, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports takes a look at the variety of new treatments — generally grouped under the header of orthobiologics — that pitchers, teams, and medical professionals have turned to in an effort to avoid the necessity of going under the knife. Stem-cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma treatments are now increasingly being deployed throughout the game, though it remains to be seen whether they’ll prove effective. You’ll certainly want to give this piece a full read to understand the state of the science. Those interested in the general subject will also want to read up on the surgical alternatives to the traditional Tommy John approach to torn ulnar collateral ligaments, as we recently discussed here. Here’s the latest on some injury and health matters around the league: Veteran Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton is headed for a visit with his surgeon after feeling pain in his recently repaired left knee, as Jeff Wilson of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram was among those to report on Twitter.
Jerry Dipoto knows that the Astros are favored to win the American League West, and if baseball analysts aren’t talking about Jose Altuve’s budding powerhouse, they’re focused on the Rangers. Why not? They’ve won the AL West two years in a row.