MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Scherzer strikes out six on mound, walks at plate

Offspeed stuff 'progressing' as righty prepares for regular season

Scherzer strikes out six on mound, walks at plate

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer had another solid outing in a 7-5 victory over the Astros on Friday afternoon.

Scherzer pitched five innings, allowed one run on three hits and struck out six batters. He threw 65 pitches in the game and tossed a few more in a bullpen session afterward.

"My offspeed pitches are really progressing," Scherzer said. "I was throwing the ball well. No walks, so that's good stuff to keep going forward into the regular season."

Scherzer even had two plate appearances and went 0-for-1 with a walk, which came in the third against right-hander Jake Buchanan. On a 3-2 pitch, Scherzer actually thought he struck out. He acknowledged he didn't know where the strike zone was while he was in the batter's box.

"I was trying to bunt the whole at-bat," Scherzer said. "Now I have to start turning up the hitting and try to see some more pitches and figure out where the strike zone is. I know where it is on the mound, but in the batter's box, I have no clue."

In his first full season in 2009, Scherzer wasn't too bad at the plate, hitting .226 (12-for-53) with three RBIs for the D-backs. But since then, he is 1-for-13.

"I remembered how I prepared when I was with Arizona. You have to work at it, keep it simple and hit the ball back up the middle," Scherzer said. "That's my approach. Now it's time to really get into it."

Scherzer still hasn't been told if he will be the Opening Day starter on April 6 against the Mets. For him, it doesn't matter when he starts. Scherzer continues to say all five starters -- including Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez -- are capable of getting the nod for the first game.

Despite winning an American League Cy Young Award in 2013, Scherzer has never started an Opening Day game.

"This rotation, one through five, can all start Opening Day. This is a good problem to have," Scherzer said. "[Pitching on Opening Day] doesn't mean anything. Going out there, wining ballgames and competing in October, that's what means the most. That's the only thing that matters. Opening Day is more publicity than anything."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.