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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Scherzer: Decision to scratch from start 'best for me, best for the team'

As many problems as the Detroit Tigers have had with hamstrings this season, there was no reason to take a chance when Max Scherzer was the latest to come up gimpy.

In a move that he called “best for me, best for the team,” it was determined on Monday that he’d be scratched from Tuesday’s scheduled start against the Minnesota Twins as a precautionary measure, because of a twinge in his left hamstring.

Duane Below was tabbed to replace him.

“It’s only one start. If you go out tonight, and something happens, you could miss three or four starts. We just didn’t want to have that happen, no matter what,” said Scherzer, who said that his recent run of success — where he’s gone 5-2 in his last eight starts — did not play into the decision. “Obviously, I want to be out there today. I realize how important these games are right now, to finish off this homestand before the All-Star break, so it frustrates me that I’m not able to help the team today.”

That wasn’t enough to trump the risk for a team that’s been ... well, hamstrung by hamstring injuries.

First there was a spring training tweak by backup catcher Gerald Laird, followed by a strain that cost rookie reliever Luis Marte a chance to come north with the squad. Outfielder Andy Dirks’ hamstring injury in April probably contributed his Achilles’ tendon injury that’s kept him out since the end of May.

Then Laird hurt his other hamstring just hours after starting catcher Alex Avila came up lame with a hamstring pull overnight.

And now Scherzer, who felt a twinge in his hamstring while running Saturday on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field.

“I was running, was going to sprint, and it just gave out on me,” Scherzer said. “I’ve been doing running, sprints the day after my conditioning for four years now. I didn’t do anything different. Just the turf in Tampa, it gave out.”

It was not a serious injury. The Tigers were hoping that rest between then and Tuesday would cure it. Scherzer was away from the team during that span for the funeral of his younger brother, Alex, who passed away June 21.

When Scherzer tested it Monday, though, it didn’t seem like the hamstring — which is on his landing leg, and has to stand up to the torque of and full weight of his body coming down on it — could handle him starting less than 24 hours later.

“When I started pushing it, throwing off the mound and pushing it, I couldn’t go 100 percent. That was a decision we had to make (Monday). I came in (Tuesday), got treatment, it feels a lot better,” Scherzer said.

“If push came to shove, I could’ve pitched today. If we really needed it. But at the same time, you’ve gotta be smart about these things. Hamstrings, they seem to have recurring injuries — you’ve seen it throughout the league, guys that try to come back early from hamstring injuries, it’s usually not a good thing.

“Kevin (Rand, the head trainer) and the coaching staff, they didn’t want to roll the dice this early in the season. Just skip the start, and start again Sunday, that’d be the best for me and the team.”

Admitting (jokingly) he’s not even sure what day it is at this point, Scherzer’s normal pitching routine will merely reset, starting with a bullpen session on Friday. He threw full bore on Tuesday, and should have no problems being ready to start the final game before the All-Star break on Sunday against the Kansas City Royals.

“Obviously, it’s not a serious injury for me. I was able to come in today get treatment, and I was really able to let it go when I was playing catch, and that’s the encouraging sign,” Scherzer said Tuesday.

“If I had to pitch today, I could, but obviously, it’s not the best thing to do.”


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