LOS ANGELES — Max Scherzer will make his first start with the Dodgers on Wednesday. Then all he has to do is win a championship.
The bar has been set high after the Dodgers went big at the trade deadline, acquiring both eight-time All-Star Scherzer and versatile shortstop Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals in exchange for four prospects including two ranked as the best in the organization (pitcher Josiah Gray and catcher Keibert Ruiz).
“I’m glad I’m part of an organization that wants to win and has their sights set on doing that,” Scherzer said Tuesday, speaking to the media for the first time since the trade. “That’s what we play the game for. … I’ve been in the league long enough to know that those things don’t always happen and things don’t always fall into place. It takes a lot of work, takes a lot of team chemistry, takes everybody playing the best baseball they can in October. In October baseball funny things happen sometimes.
“So, I understand why we’re here. I understand we have a great team and the fans feel that way (nothing but another World Series title would justify the trade). As a player, you can only control what you can control and you can’t worry about other people’s expectations. All I can do is go out there and pitch my game.”
Asked to reflect on his time with the Nationals, Scherzer – who won two of his three Cy Young Awards as a National – said the 2019 World Series title is his proudest moment.
“Flags fly forever,” he said.
Teams don’t stay together forever, though, and Scherzer said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo came to him and told him trading him was going to be a key element in re-setting the Nationals’ roster. Scherzer, 36, had the right to veto any trade and said he was “driving myself crazy trying to make a decision there, in like two days” about which teams he would accept as a destination.
He had a few requirements. It had to be a team with a chance to win. He wanted to stay in the National League because of his “familiarity” with opposing hitters. And he wanted to finish the year in warm weather.
“I think we were actually on a bus going back down to D.C. (after playing in Philadelphia on Thursday) when it went final and then I got the phone call from Mike Rizzo that they had traded me to the Dodgers,” Scherzer said. “That’s how it goes. You almost find out on Twitter. Twitter knows all.”
There were reports on Twitter during the day Thursday that Scherzer was headed to San Diego.
“I hadn’t gotten that phone call from Rizzo to say that was a done deal,” Scherzer said. “Whenever you see things like that – rumors are rumors until you actually get the phone call. So the fact that Twitter was going off, and I hadn’t gotten a phone call, I knew something else was probably still in the weeds. That’s what it is. You can’t always fall for Twitter. But Twitter usually is pretty good.”
Scherzer declined to answer when he was asked if the Nationals had ever asked him to approve a destination other than Los Angeles.
Outfielder Mookie Betts was back at second base again Tuesday. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Betts “came up a little bit sore” after his first game back from a hip injury on Sunday.
Playing Betts on the infield set off other dominoes. Chris Taylor moved to center field and Cody Bellinger started in right field for only the second time since 2019.
“To keep him (Betts) on the dirt, just allows for him to stay on the field, and that’s our goal, that’s my goal, that’s everyone in that clubhouse’s goal,” Roberts said. “Right now this is the best way to do that.”
Roberts said he expects Trea Turner to be cleared to travel to Los Angeles on Friday. “Does that mean he’s going to be at the ballpark Saturday? I don’t know,” Roberts said. “Once he gets here, we’ll know more about when the time for him to get on the field with us is. I don’t know that either.” Turner is currently on the COVID IL. …
Right-hander Edwin Uceta was placed on the injured list on Tuesday with a back strain. Right-hander Brusdar Graterol was recalled from Triple-A to replace him on the roster.
Astros (RHP Jake Odorizzi, 4-5, 4.30 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Max Scherzer, 8-4, 2.76 ERA), Wednesday, 6:40 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM
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