posted 8 years ago
PHOENIX -- While the rest of his teammates got started on their offseason vacations, Max Scherzer took the mound Tuesday afternoon in an Arizona Fall League game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
It was a long way from the bright lights and big crowds he pitched in front of during his time in the Major Leagues this year, but it is a necessary step toward being a member of the starting rotation next year.
Scherzer managed to get in 53 innings at Triple-A Tucson and 56 with the D-backs. His season was shortened when he was shut down for a time with shoulder fatigue. The organization is cautious with the number of innings it allows one of its pitchers to increase in workload from year to year.
"Generally a 30-inning jump is important to pay attention to," D-backs farm director A.J. Hinch said. "But everyone responds differently. The good news is Max feels great and he's not laboring through this."
With Scherzer just getting 109 regular-season innings, that would not have put him in a good position to be part of the team's rotation in 2009. So in between the end of the big league season and the start of the Fall League, Scherzer threw seven innings in the instructional league.
The plan is for him to get another 20 or so innings in the Fall League before shutting him down for the winter.
"There's multiple values to this," Hinch said. "He gets a chance to compete at a high level against guys that are some of the top prospects in baseball, and he also gets to add to his volume of innings, which will help him going into next year."
Scherzer worked seven innings Tuesday and allowed two runs (one earned) while allowing four hits and striking out four. He did not walk a batter, and both of the runs came on a homer by Casper Wells in the first. Of Scherzer's 78 pitches, 54 went for strikes.
It's not often a pitcher throws seven innings in the Fall League. In fact, only two other pitchers in the league's 17 years have done it.
There were no shortage of D-backs' officials to witness the outing. General manager Josh Byrnes, pitching coach Bryan Price, bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock, third-base coach Chip Hale and special assistant Roland Hemond joined Hinch in the stands.
They saw Scherzer's fastball sit in the mid-90s throughout the game, while his slider and change were average. The fastball has never been a problem for Scherzer, but it was his improvement with his other two pitches that impressed the big league staff when he was called up in September.
In the end, the shoulder fatigue he experienced earlier this year may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as he got himself on a strengthening program that has allowed him to remain strong into October.
"I think he found some deficiencies a little bit ... strength-wise and was able to address those without the occurrence of an injury," Hinch said. "Give Max credit; he was on board to do that."