Max Scherzer’s second rehab start from a strained left oblique on Wednesday was likely his last for the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, which is just the kind of good news the New York Mets need after getting swept for the second time in a week by the Houston Astros.
Scherzer stretched out to 80 pitches in Hartford, going 4.2 innings while allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits with eight strikeouts. Now his sights are set firmly on a return to the Mets.
“Felt good out there,” Scherzer said. “Had to work through some traffic and was able to come out and get five ups in, get 80 pitches in. Everything felt good. So I’m good to go.”
It’s been just under six weeks since the 37-year-old right-hander pulled himself out of an at-bat against Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals on May 18 after feeling a “zing” in his left side.
Given the trickiness and fragility of oblique injuries, he remained largely ahead of schedule to make his first rehab start last Tuesday for Binghamton — going three innings and 50 pitches — in what was initially believed to be his only outing before returning to the Mets.
Tightness in the area a few days later prompted one more start as a Rumble Pony just to confirm, which was pushed back 24 hours just to give him an extra day of rest.
“I knew I was going to have more in the tank based on how I recovered over the past couple of days,” Scherzer said. “I knew I was going to feel good. Then just try to work, work the sequences, work the pitches, and get on the attack. From that standpoint, that was good as well.”
The three-time Cy Young Award winner admitted that he probably could have thrown even more than the 80 pitches hurled on Wednesday, but the tenacious competitor wasn’t losing sight of the last bit of caution needed to get him back to the majors.
“I still felt like on the arm specifically I had another hitter or two in me,” he began. “But that’s where you have to be careful with this injury specifically of not going too far beyond where you were previously.”
The next step is ramping up for a start with the Mets, who are on their first three-game losing streak of the season and could certainly use the injection of top-tier pitching with Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill still on the shelf.
“I feel really confident going through this turn now of how I’ll prepare for the next start,” Scherzer said. “It won’t be much rehabbing in the process so it won’t overload the oblique… which will allow me to make my next start in five days.”
That’s looking like — for now — a 4th of July start against the Reds in Cincinnati.
“Can’t wait,” he said.