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.''
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 said he will get three more starts before season and 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.''
MAKING HIS WAY BACK
Toronto Blue Jays reliever T.J. House is slowly increasing his physical activity, almost a week after he was hit on the head by a line drive during a spring training game.
House was cleared to run on a treadmill for five minutes Thursday, a day after he rode a stationary bike for seven minutes.
''It's just a slow progression,'' House said. ''There's not really a timetable right now. It's day to day. If it's good, you continue moving forward. Just excited to be kind of being active again, sweating a little bit.''
House was taken off the field in an ambulance March 10 after getting struck in the ninth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers. He was hospitalized overnight, then released.
''Feeling good,'' House said. ''Surprisingly, I didn't really have much of a problem. I walked out of the hospital the next day. The third day, I was a little sore. After that I got some good sleep. I think I needed that.''
Aaron Sanchez says there are ''no hard feelings'' after the 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 the 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 a 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.
BREWERS 8, DIAMONDBACKS 5
Matt Garza was knocked around for his third straight start, allowing four runs over 3 1/3 innings for Milwaukee. Garza's spring ERA is 8.31 in four appearances. Travis Shaw clubbed a two-run shot for Milwaukee, and Jesus Aguilar hit his fourth homer of the spring.
Robbie Ray struck out seven over four innings for Arizona, and David Peralta and Daniel Descalso homered. Ketel Marte, acquired along with Taijuan Walker from Seattle from Jean Segura, had three hits.
CUBS 4, DODGERS 0
Hyun-Jin Ryu had another strong outing, holding Chicago to a run and striking out four over three innings. Ryu has made just one start in the past two seasons for Los Angeles because of injuries. He's allowed a run over five innings with six strikeouts in two spring starts.
Albert Almora Jr. doubled and scored a run for Chicago and Cubs starter Eddie Butler struck out four over four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. The 25-year-old Butler, who was the 46th pick in the 2012 draft, improved to 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA and has allowed just one walk in 10 innings this spring.
INDIANS 6, ATHLETICS 5
Austin Jackson had a pair of doubles and three RBIs for Cleveland, and Indians starter Zach McAlister gave up two runs on five hits in two innings.
A's prospect Franklin Barreto hit his first spring homer and Ryon Healy added his third, a two-run shot. Andrew Triggs allowed six runs on five hits over 3 2/3 innings
MARINERS 9, ROYALS (ss) 2
Prospect Boog Powell had three hits, including a double, and two RBIs while Tyler O'Neill had RBI double for Seattle. Starter Chase De Jong gave up a run on four hits and a walk over four innings.
Jason Vargas gave up four runs - two earned - over two innings for the Royals.
ROYALS (ss) 13, PADRES 3
Kansas City erupted for eight runs in the second. Prospect Hunter Dozier scored on a botched squeeze play, Alex Gordon plated two with a single and an outfield error and Whit Merrifield tripled in Gordon. Gordon had two hits, three RBIs and three runs, and Merrifield had three hits.
Padres starter Trevor Cahill gave up seven runs - four earned - on five hits over 1 1/3 innings. Travis Jankowski had two hits and a walk.
ANGELS 8, ROCKIES 7
Albert Pujols had two hits and two RBIs and Yunel Escobar also had two hits for Los Angeles. Garrett Richards allowed three runs over four innings, and the Angels had three extra-base hits and scored four runs in the ninth.
Dustin Garneau, who will see more time behind the plate with Tom Murphy's forearm fracture, cracked a three-run homer in his third. Tyler Chatwood gave up two runs on eight hits and a walk in four innings. He struck out five.
PHILLIES 2, ORIOLES 2
Chris Dickerson singled with one out in the ninth to break up Philadelphia's no-hitter, and Sean Coyle followed with a tying homer to left field.
Vince Velasquez pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out six with no hits and four walks for Philadelphia. He has allowed one run with 11 strikeouts in nine innings this spring. Jake Thompson, making his first appearance of the spring, threw 2 1/3 perfect innings.
Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis each went 0 for 3 for Baltimore. Davis is batting .143 and Trumbo, who led MLB with a career-high 47 homers in 2016, is hitting .185 this spring. Left-handed prospect Chris Lee pitched three scoreless innings for the Orioles.
RED SOX 4, PIRATES 3
Chris Sale allowed three runs on seven hits over four innings for Boston, and Craig Kimbrel rebounded from a tough outing on Sunday with a perfect inning of work. Marco Hernandez and Christian Vasquez each had two hits, and Sam Travis got his ninth RBI of the spring.
Ivan Nova struck out five over five effective innings for the Pirates. Prospect Jose Osuna continued his strong performance this spring, getting two hits and an RBI - his 10th - and one walk. Josh Bell, who made his spring debut on Monday after undergoing knee surgery in February, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.