Thumb injury pushes Scherzer's scheduled start back

Rookie Cole to start in place of ace right-hander

Thumb injury pushes Scherzer's scheduled start back

ATLANTA -- Max Scherzer continued down his path back into the Nationals' rotation on Monday, but the star right-hander will miss his start on Tuesday, and is still at least a few days away from a return to the mound.

Scherzer, the team's $210 million offseason pitching prize, is making his way back from a strained thumb on his pitching hand that he jammed during an at-bat in his last start on Thursday.

"I would think that before another five days he'd be back," manager Matt Williams told reporters before Monday's 8-4 loss to the Braves. "But there's a progression there, too."

Scherzer, who came to the ballpark with a black bandage around the base of his thumb, spent between 10-15 minutes throwing off flat ground in left field at Turner Field before Monday's game, gradually stretching out his throws before closing back in for his last few tosses. He wasn't wearing the bandage while throwing.

Scherzer's solid outing

Williams said Scherzer, who hasn't issued a walk in his last 16 innings, had full command of his fastball. But he's still struggling with getting his slider to 100 percent. If Scherzer shows no ill effects from Monday's workout, he could get back on a mound on Tuesday to see how his thumb fares.

The club will take it from there, but if he's ready to go, the club could plug him back into the rotation shortly after that. Until then, the Nationals will make due.

After Monday's loss, Williams announced that rookie A.J. Cole will make his Major League debut in place of the injured Scherzer. Cole, the Nationals' No. 3-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, was 0-0 with a 2.40 ERA in three starts for Triple-A Syracuse this season.

Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is scheduled to pitch Wednesday's series finale against the Braves.

John Donovan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.