Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer is experimenting with a new type grip for his successful fastball thanks to an injury to his finger.
Last season, Scherzer won the National League Cy Young despite having a stress fracture of the ring finger of his right hand during the second part of the season.
The problem did not fully heal over the winter so Scherzer has decide to try a new grip during spring training.
Scherzer said it felt strange he was using three fingers to throw with.
His normal grip for his fastball, the one that almost all pitchers use in professional baseball, uses two fingers placed on the top-side of the ball. The ring finger is bent along one side of the baseball providing a form of stability.
However, the injury to Scherzer’s ring finger becomes aggravated by that grip due to the ball pressing on the knuckle.
At the start of spring training, he straightened out his ring finger and placed it at the top of the baseball as well, next to the middle and the index fingers. That grip alleviates pressure on the knuckle and thus he experiences less pain.
Scherzer said that there was not much else he could do. He added that he was willing to try it and that it was just part of the things he needs to do to win games for the team.
On Tuesday, the Nationals’ right-hander pitched against live batters for just the first time during spring training. He threw batting practice to hitters from the minor leagues on a back field of the Nationals’ complex ahead of the game between Washington and Boston.
While Dusty Baker his team manager and Mike Rizzo, the Nationals general manager observed, Scherzer pitched from both his windup as well as the stretch, in two innings of simulated action. He threw just 44 pitches of which most were his fastball.
Washington did not use radar guns, but Scherzer believes did not feel there had been a fall off in his velocity using the new grip he used.
He sensed that the spin on the ball was the same as it was with his usual grip.
The Nationals ace said he does not know of a timeline for when he will pitch next, and would not say what his next step was.
Scherzer, who is 32, was 20-7 during 2016, with an ERA of 2.96. He led the majors in strikeouts with 284.