A perennial Cy Young contender is suddenly iffy for his planned Opening Day start.
Scherzer is recovering from a stress fracture in one of his knuckles. The injury crept up in January, and has still given Scherzer some trouble more than two months later. He has been throwing simulated games at the Nats' Spring Training complex, and figures to work his way into some Grapefruit League action as the exhibition games roll on. Despite the inherent progress, manager Dusty Baker has expressed doubt in Scherzer's ability to return to form in time for that first game.
Here's what else is happening around the National League:
If his recent World Baseball Classic ejection is any indication, perhaps Pirates fans could be seeing a different side of one of their favorite players this season. Andrew McCutchen, playing for the United States, was tossed against Puerto Rico on Friday night for arguing balls and strikes. McCutchen, who is generally calm and relaxed on the ball field, reacted strongly at the umpire's call on a pitch that did appear to be outside the strike zone (you be the judge). The United States fell to Puerto Rico 6-5, but eventually beat the Dominican Republic 6-3 on Saturday night to advance to the tournament semifinals.
The Phillies held the Orioles hitless through eight innings earlier this week, but a possible jinx may have turned rare Spring Training glory into an uneventful draw. After keeping the first 25 Baltimore batters hitless, a combined Phillies pitching masterpiece suddenly turned sour when, in the ninth, the O's rallied with a string of hits to force a 2-2 tie. Talk about a fall from grace.
Judging by his career statistics, San Francisco's Jeff Samardzija has proven to be predictable, but in a good way. Year in and year out, Samardzija has flown under the radar, but has also put together strong numbers while also managing to keep up velocity and control. His fastball has lost no speed since 2014, and his WAR remains impressive (check out the link to see just how effective he has been in that department). Overall, the 32-year-old figures to have a lot more in the tank, and the Giants have to feel good about picking him up.
In his first pitching stint since Tommy John surgery, Colorado's Greg Holland turned in an encouraging performance last week. Holland mixed command and speed well (his fastball sat in the low-to-mid 90s), and made sure to mix in some of his more effective pitches in the curveball and slider. Though it was just an inning, the Rockies are surely happy about the progress of one of their better relievers.
Coming off a tough 2016 season, Braves fans can be excited about a new face at the hot corner. 22-year-old Rio Ruiz has caught fire in Spring Training, and just may have earned a spot at third for Atlanta this season. Ruiz has extensive minor league experience (particularly at the AA and AAA levels), and is capable of some serious power. This spring, however, Ruiz has impressed with his ability to hit for average, maintaining a cool .326 average so far this spring. The Braves don't have to rush Ruiz into the new digs, but boy, it sure could turn out pretty good for them.