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Cautious Nats won't start Scherzer over weekend

WASHINGTON -- The return of Max Scherzer will have to wait.

The Washington Nationals announced their starting rotation for this weekend, and Scherzer was not a part of it. After throwing a simulated game earlier this week, there was speculation that Scherzer might be activated for his team's series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

However, Scherzer, who's dealing with a mild rhomboid strain and has only made one start in the past six weeks, isn't ready to go yet.

"I'll be honest with you: I want him to pitch," Nationals manager Davey Martinez before Friday's 2-1 win over Milwaukee. "But we have to be smart. And we want to make sure that when he comes back, he's back with us for the rest of the season."

Scherzer, 35, threw about 60 pitches on Tuesday at Nationals Park as part of a simulated game. Although he isn't feeling any discomfort, the plan is for Scherzer to work another sim game on Saturday in an effort to ramp up his workload.

"We still have to strengthen him to pitch, his endurance, to get him through 75, 80 pitches," Martinez said. "So [Saturday] he comes out, we'll see how it goes, and we'll come back and see how he recovers after that."

Scherzer, who skipped the All-Star Game because of his back issues, originally hit the injured list on July 13. He returned to pitch against the Colorado Rockies on July 25, allowing three runs in five innings and throwing a season-low 86 pitches.

Four days later, he again landed on the IL, where he's been since.

A three-time Cy Young winner, Scherzer is 9-5 with a 2.41 ERA in 20 starts this year. Entering Friday's action, he was tied for second in the National League with 189 strikeouts. In his first 11 seasons prior to this year, he had made two trips to the injured list.

Originally, Washington's starters for Saturday's and Sunday's games were listed as TBD, leaving open the possibility that Scherzer could return against the Brewers. On Friday afternoon, the Nats announced Anibal Sanchez and Erick Fedde would start the final two games of the series. Lefty Patrick Corbin takes the hill in the opener against Brewers righty Adrian Houser.

The Nationals (66-55), who are on a five-game winning streak, are in second place in the NL East, 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves, who lost 8-3 on Friday. Washington also holds the top wild-card spot, with the Brewers (63-59) just one game out of the second wild-card position.