PHOENIX -- Some years, when he picks up the ball to get ready for a season, Max Scherzer feels great. Then there are other years where it's not as easy for the D-backs right-hander.
"Every year is different," Scherzer said. "It's a crapshoot."
Recently, the arm did not feel great when he started throwing, so he backed off and will give it another go shortly.
"I'm taking it easy right now and I'm going to start throwing again here Monday," Scherzer said. "It's nothing serious. It's just typical of what I get when I start up. I'm in line to be ready for Spring Training."
The D-backs are certainly counting on that as Scherzer is expected to be a key part of their rotation. Ideally, the club would pitch the 24-year-old out of the No. 5 spot in the rotation. That would allow manager Bob Melvin to occasionally skip him and keep his innings in the 170 range.
That's one of the reasons the club is still in search of a starter to fill the No. 4 spot in the rotation with the departure of Randy Johnson.
Last year, in his first full professional season, Scherzer threw 53 innings at Triple-A Tucson and 56 in the big leagues. He was on the Minor League disabled list from June 20 to July 19 with right shoulder inflammation. As a result, the team put him on a strengthening program that he said helped immensely.
"I would never say being injured is a good thing, but I was able to take some good from it," Scherzer said. "I was able to make an adjustment from that and really upped the strength in my shoulder so I don't run into that problem again."
The D-backs sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he threw an additional 24 innings to build his arm up to the point where he could be a solid contributor in 2009 even if the season extends into the playoffs.
"We'll see," Arizona GM Josh Byrnes said about what an ideal number of innings would be for Scherzer. "He's probably conditioned at his age to where 170 is a possibility. We also want to be careful for his first go as a wire-to-wire starting pitcher and we hope there's a seventh month of play."
Scherzer is itching to get Spring Training started, and even though everyone seems to have him penciled into the rotation, he is taking nothing for granted.
"What everyone else writes about how the rotation is going to be or whatever, my approach is to go in and have a good Spring Training and everything will take care of itself," he said. "If I get caught up in whether I'm going to make the rotation or not I'm not going to be as productive as I could be. So for me, it's a matter of going in healthy in Spring Training and the rest of the stuff will work itself out."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.