VIERA, Fla. (AP) — Max Scherzer was warming up in the bullpen, getting ready to head onto the field to throw his first batting practice session for the Washington Nationals.
But first, the national anthem.
"You've got to simulate it like it's a real game," Scherzer said Sunday. "It's always about the little things."
So before Scherzer could leave the bullpen, he turned to manager Matt Williams, who was standing near him.
Williams hummed "The Star-Spangled Banner" for him.
"It's Max's thing," Williams said. "He always takes that break for the national anthem when he prepares to go start a game. He wanted to take the break, so we hummed it for him and made him feel comfortable in that regard so he could go out and do his live BP."
After that, the Nationals' newcomer threw a few more warmup pitches, then took the spring training mound and used his full arsenal against batters who aren't likely to make the team's final roster — catchers Daniel Butler and Sandy Leon, infielders Emmanuel Burris and Kia Ka'aihue, and outfielder Matt Skole.
"It felt great," Scherzer said. "It's been a few months since I've been out there facing hitters. And to actually seem like I know what I was doing, it was a good feeling."
Scherzer's fastball and breaking balls seemed particularly sharp. Only Butler made any kind of real contact, hitting what would have been a weak grounder to second. Other than that, the batters just let the pitches go by.
"They only swung three times, so I don't know if they had a problem or not," Scherzer said. "I was at least putting the fastball where I wanted to today, but at the end of the day, it's a live BP, so let's check what we're actually talking about."
Williams said he thought Scherzer threw the ball "extremely well."
The NL East champion Nationals boosted their already formidable rotation in the offseason when they signed the former AL Cy Young Award with Detroit to a $210 million, seven-year contract.
While Scherzer makes the adjustment to a new league, he's keeping his same routines. Such as humming the anthem, which he said happened all the time when he played for the Tigers.
Williams found out about the tradition Sunday morning. What does that tell the manager about his new star?
"I'm not sure what that tells me about him, other than that he pays attention to the national anthem, which is a good thing," Williams smiled.