MIAMI — Max Scherzer’s mantra as he approaches his return to the Mets is: avoid a physical setback at all costs. That measured approach is taking him back to the minor leagues for at least one more rehab start.
The right-hander expects that start will occur Tuesday at a minor league affiliate still to be determined. Scherzer pitched 3 ¹/₃ innings Tuesday at Double-A Binghamton, throwing 65 pitches, in his first rehab appearance since straining his left oblique May 18. The initial prognosis was a recovery time of six to eight weeks. Scherzer still hasn’t reached six weeks.
But Scherzer initially hoped his return to the Mets would occur Sunday. Manager Buck Showalter has instead scheduled David Peterson to face the Marlins.
“I just hit a plateau in this,” Scherzer said before the Mets’ 5-3 win over the Marlins on Saturday. “I am trying to pitch and do rehab at the same time, so coming out after that start, doing a core routine afterwards, throwing a bullpen, doing a core routine, it was a lot and I got a little sore.
“In order to be able to pitch in the big leagues Sunday, I was going to have to be perfect and there was going to be a lot of stipulations even for me pitching in a game, so I couldn’t check that box. I need to repeat this process again, go through the turn again, and for me I am focusing on the rehab right now and making sure it is strong and getting back.”
Scherzer said his oblique felt fine the day after his start for Binghamton, but other elements of his rehab affected him.
“We came into the field [Wednesday] and played catch and it was in pretty good condition all things considered,” Scherzer said. “I felt like I woke up pretty good. I threw a bullpen [session] the next day, probably normal intensity and then a core routine afterwards. I just came in the next day and I was sore, as expected. I am doing a lot. I passed all the tests, there is no setback whatsoever, so this is just the nature of coming back from this injury.”
Scherzer had never dealt with an oblique injury previously in his career, so he is working without a roadmap.
The Mets have managed to maintain a first-place lead in the NL East with Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill all missing from the starting rotation. But Scherzer said the team’s success isn’t playing into his decision to play it cautiously in his rehab.
“You have got to completely remove that from your calculus,” Scherzer said. “I cannot have a setback. I have got to come back healthy. I cannot have a setback. I understand that and will pitch when I am ready to pitch.”
The continuation of Scherzer’s rehab shouldn’t be perceived as a setback, according to Showalter.
“That has been kind of the plan all along, to see how he’s felt from day to day and not get ahead of himself and commit to something where it might look like a failure,” Showalter said. “It’s not been. He’s right where he is supposed to be if you look at the history of these injuries.”