Teams aren’t allowed to make trades or sign free agents during the MLB playoffs. But that might not stop the Rangers from making the equivalent of a major acquisition before starting the ALCS against the Astros.
Max Scherzer was acquired by the Rangers at the 2023 trade deadline, trading for him from the Mets in exchange for prospect Luisangel Acuna. Scherzer had found mixed results with the Mets, but looked back to his usual three-time Cy Young-winning self, pitching to a 3.20 ERA in eight starts for Texas after the deal.
Scherzer has been out of the Rangers rotation since Sept. 13, when it was revealed he had a low grade strain of the teres major muscle in his right shoulder. The injury cost him the rest of the regular season, and threatened his status for the playoffs.
As the playoffs have continued to go on for the Rangers, the chances of a return for their recently acquired ace have gone up. And after sweeping the Rays in the wild-card round and the Orioles in the ALDS, the Rangers have continued to prolong their season, thus keeping a chance for a Scherzer return in 2023 possible.
Will he be making it back in the ALCS, when the Rangers take on the Astros? Here’s what you need to know.
Will Max Scherzer pitch in the playoffs?
It appears Scherzer is ready to play. The question will be whether the Rangers add him to the roster.
On Friday, Scherzer told reporters that he felt ready to pitch, noting that he had done pitchers’ fielding practice, one of the final steps of preparation before pitching.
“I recovered,” Scherzer said, according to MLB.com. “I checked all the boxes I possibly can. I’m ready to go. I respect what Houston can do. They’re obviously a great team. I’ve got to bring my A-game.”
Those steps toward recovery included throwing a live batting practice on Wednesday, in which he threw about 65 pitches, and a bullpen and pitchers’ fielding practice on Friday, according to MLB.com.
Though manager Bruce Bochy did not speak to the media on Friday, pitching coach Mike Maddux said the team has been “encouraged” by Scherzer’s progress.
“He threw I think 68 [pitches] against hitters and maintained his stuff. He didn’t skip a beat from one to 68. That was the encouraging part,” Maddux said, per MLB.com. “He needs to sharpen up a little bit. But overall [it was] very encouraging, and the fact that he bounced back and played a good game of catch yesterday. We’re looking all thumbs up for today.”
The Rangers will have to make the decision before the start of Sunday’s Game 1 against the Astros. Teams can only make roster changes before the start of each playoff round. Once that round begins, the 26-man roster is set until after the series is over.
The only exception is injuries, where a team can request an injured player be replaced on the roster by another. However, that request must be approved by the Commissioner’s Office, and it would mean that player is ineligible not just for the remainder of the present round but for the following round. That would mean a player replaced in the ALCS would be ineligible for the World Series.