NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer probably will miss the Washington Nationals' opener against Miami on April 3 because of a stress fracture in his right ring finger.
The stress fracture had caused Scherzer to change the grip on his fastball, placing three fingers on top of the ball instead of two, but he went back to his old grip Thursday during his first game action this year, a three-inning stint in a minor league exhibition against New York Mets' Triple-A players.
''That's the really good news today,'' said Scherzer, who struck out five. ''It's good to be back to the normal grip. From here on out, I'll be obviously progressing that way. Now I'm dialing it in, trying to hit locations and really trying to pitch with the fastball again. Now I feel back.''
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Scherzer threw 35 of 54 pitches for strikes, mixing in some three-fingered fastballs. He had two quick innings but struggled with his control in the second.
Pitching coach Mike Maddux said Scherzer will start for the Nationals on Wednesday against St. Louis.
''We'll take the training wheels off,'' Maddux said.
Scherzer he will get three more starts before season and said he expects to break camp with the big league club.
''I should be progressing at a pretty good clip now to allow myself to be able to find a way to start the regular season,'' Scherzer said.
A 32-year-old right-hander, Scherzer was 20-7 last season.
Manager Dusty Baker said of Scherzer's opening-day availability: ''At this point, probably no.''
Aaron Sanchez says there are ''no hard feelings'' after the Toronto Blue Jays renewed his contract for the minimum salary of $535,000 in the major leagues and $304,444 in the unlikely event he is sent to the minors.
Sanchez went 15-2 with a 3.00 ERA last year, his first full season as a starting pitcher.
Toronto offered a modest increase above the minimum based on team's formula, which was rejected by Sanchez and his agent, Scott Boras.
''It's something that we didn't agree on,'' Sanchez said Thursday, when he gave up three runs and four hits in 2 1/3 innings against the New York Yankees. ''They said there's plan in place for quite some time. I'm just here to worry about getting better and helping this team. That's always been my mindset and I think that will never change.''
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons feels Sanchez is ''just scratching the surface'' when it comes to mound success.
''His ceiling, who knows how high that is?'' Gibbons said. ''He's going to get better and better and better.''
ACROSS THE GRAPEFRUIT AND CACTUS LEAGUES
NATIONALS 3, METS 1
Bryce Harper hit his spring training-leading sixth home run, and Gio Gonzalez pitched five hitless innings, striking out two and walking one. Ryan Zimmerman hit a run-scoring single in the fourth inning, leaving him with a .136 average (3 for 22) with one RBI.
Mets starter Zack Wheeler gave up two runs and three hits in 2 1/3 innings as he returns to the Mets after a two-year layoff caused by a torn elbow ligament.
CARDINALS 2, TWINS 1
Trevor Rosenthal, in his transition from closer to starter, gave up two hits and two walks in two shutout innings. Jedd Gyorko hit a solo homer, and Randal Grichuk had a game-ending, bases-loaded single in the ninth.
Twins starter Kyle Gibson allowed one run and five hits in five innings with five strikeouts.
TIGERS 5, BRAVES 3
Nick Castellanos and prospect JaCoby Jones homered, and Daniel Norris gave up two runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings with four strikeouts.
Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz struck out seven in four innings, allowing one run and five hits. Matt Kemp went 2 for 2 with an RBI single.
YANKEES 11, BLUE JAYS 5
Starling Castro hit a three-run homer, Aaron Hicks added a solo shot and prospect Clint Frazier hit his first of spring training. Yankees prospect James Kaprielian struck out three in two scoreless innings of relief, then was reassigned to the minor league complex.
New York agreed to a minor league contract with reliever Ernesto Frieri, who last pitched in the big leagues with Tampa Bay in 2015 and was with Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the 31-year-old right-hander has a chance to make New York's opening-day roster.
Troy Tulowitzki went 2 for 3, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia had two RBIs.