A few days late, Scherzer will face Phillies in season debut

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Max Scherzer isn’t your average No. 4 starter.

The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner had to wait a few days to take the mound because he began spring training dealing with pain from a broken knuckle at the base of the ring finger of his throwing hand.

So Scherzer will make his season debut when the defending NL East champion Washington Nationals visit the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday.

Scherzer’s injury arose late in the 2016 season but wasn’t diagnosed until December. Considering he could’ve started this year on the disabled list, pitching the fourth game instead of opening day is just fine with him. He called it ”a major accomplishment.”

”You’ve got to remember, the first time I picked up a baseball was the first day of spring (training),” Scherzer said Thursday. ”That’s six weeks behind the bare minimum of usually where I’m at.

”I was able to long toss, get through all my programs, get through the bullpens and here I am.”

When spring training started, Scherzer was throwing fastballs with a three-fingered grip because his ring finger hurt too much to bend it against the ball the way a pitcher normally would. He used the three-finger grip to allow him to start working his arm into shape.

”I’m good to throw 100 pitches (Friday),” Scherzer said. ”That’s what’s so exciting about where I was at to where I am now. I’m going to be able to compete in this first turn of the rotation.”

Scherzer went 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 284 strikeouts last season, including a record-tying 20 Ks in one game. He earned his second Cy Young Award and first in the NL after receiving the AL award in 2013 with Detroit.

Vince Velasquez starts for the Phillies in their home opener after losing two of three in Cincinnati .

Velasquez will be hard-pressed to match his first start in Philadelphia last season when he struck out 16 batters in a three-hitter against San Diego.

The hard-throwing righty had a promising first season with the Phillies in 2016. He was 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 24 starts. Velasquez had 152 strikeouts in 131 innings. But he’ll be seeking his first win since July 8.

”I realize my potential and that’s why I’m working hard,” Velasquez said. ”I would love to be a No. 1 starter. I would love to be an opening day starter. But there are a lot of factors that play into it. I have a lot of work to do to show these people what I can be.”

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

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