Injured Mets ace Scherzer throws 3 innings in simulated game

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NEW YORK (AP) — Max Scherzer might be back in the New York Mets' rotation before long.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner threw 50 pitches in a simulated game Thursday at Citi Field as he recovers from a left oblique strain. If he keeps feeling good, the right-hander plans to make a minor league rehab start next Tuesday — and it's at least possible he could return to the Mets after that.

“It’s too hard to speculate, because you hit the next level, you might stress it too much. You don’t want to start thinking farther ahead than what you can. This is a tricky injury," Scherzer said.

"So, I’d love to tell you that I can do one rehab start and I’m going to feel great and I’m going to come back. I would love to say I can do that. Is that possible? Yes. But the reality is, I could very easily have a rehab start, have it be tight, and want to actually do it again before I’m actually in a big league game. So I’m very aware of working back through this injury and really, really focused on not having a setback.”

Scherzer, however, isn't concerned with getting fully stretched out again before starting a major league game.

“I’m fine with being a little limited. If I can get back here throwing 70, 80 pitches — give me the ball," he said.

So it appears the soonest Scherzer could pitch for the Mets would be June 26 at Miami. That would be 5 1/2 weeks after he was injured in a May 18 start against St. Louis.

After testing revealed the oblique strain, the Mets said Scherzer's injury typically requires a six-to-eight-week recovery.

A second rehab start in the minors would likely push Scherzer's return back to the weekend of July 1-3 at home against Texas. But even that projection assumes no setbacks, of course.

“Hopefully he feels well tomorrow and we're able to take the next step,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He knows his body. He knows his arm.”

Scherzer simulated three innings, facing Mets backup catcher Patrick Mazeika and two minor leaguers.

“Did it exactly the way I thought I was going to do it, with the second inning being the highest-intensity inning," Scherzer said. "Felt good the entire time. Threw all the pitches, so everything’s good.”

He approached the session with his typical intensity, according to Showalter.

“He was into it, and you could tell how much he enjoyed being back out on the mound here at Citi Field,” Showalter said.

Scherzer, who turns 38 next month, is 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA over eight starts in his first season with the Mets after signing a $130 million, three-year contract as a free agent.

New York is also missing fellow ace Jacob deGrom, sidelined all season by a stress reaction in his right scapula. The two-time Cy Young Award winner didn't pitch after July 7 last year because of an elbow injury.

The right-hander, who turns 34 on Sunday, threw 30 pitches Tuesday in his fourth bullpen session and is scheduled for an “up-and-down” bullpen Friday.

New York still had the best record in the National League at 41-23 heading into Thursday night's series finale against Milwaukee. But the Mets' 10 1/2-game cushion in the NL East on June 1 had been whittled to four thanks to Atlanta's 14-game winning streak.

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