Max Scherzer will be a Rumble Pony no longer.
The Mets’ ace — who after his rehab assignment last month bemoaned his Rumble Pony status — finally will pitch in a major-league game Tuesday in Cincinnati after more than six weeks on the injured list with an oblique strain. That means Scherzer will be on tap to make three starts before the July 19 All-Star break, no doubt a best-case scenario as the Mets try to turn the page on an uneven June in which their NL East lead shrank to 3 1⁄2 games.
Scherzer, who threw 80 pitches with Double-A Binghamton on Wednesday, said he hopes to be stretched to around the 90-pitch range for his return, though 100 pitches is a vague possibility. He added that the injury, while healed, will require constant attention not just throughout the remainder of the season but for the rest of his career. He plans to stay in communication with manager Buck Showalter during his start and will continue to assess the area throughout.
“In the process of learning what I can or can’t do, I feel like I understand” how to manage it best, Scherzer said Friday. “I should be in a much better spot now toning down the rehab part of it and focusing more on the pitching part. Now it’s more of a maintenance thing of what I need to do on my other four days to keep it strong and not let it happen again . . . There’s plenty of things, a lot of lifts that I do for maybe one injury I had 10 years ago, so I still do it to this day.”
A little like a groundhog not seeing its shadow, Scherzer’s return portends warmer days ahead for the Mets, who in June pitched to a 4.32 ERA.
With Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Tylor Megill all on the injured list, the rotation has been uneven at times despite strong outings from David Peterson, who made an emergency start Friday, and Taijuan Walker. Scherzer, though, will add some gravitas to a team trying to avoid a second-half swoon and will help steady the boat as the Mets await deGrom’s return.
DeGrom (shoulder) threw a 27-pitch bullpen session Wednesday and is ready for his next progression, Showalter said, ostensibly rehab starts in Port St. Lucie. The Mets will have a firmer update Saturday, Showalter said.
“He’ll continue to be in the Port St. Lucie area for a while,” Showalter said. “We’re happy about his progress. So far, so good. He’s met every benchmark.”
Megill (shoulder) won’t be eligible to return from the 60-day IL until mid-August.
Sitting out has been “frustrating because you always want to be out there, but let’s also give guys some credit here,” Scherzer said. “They played some really good baseball during this whole period. Trevor Williams is throwing the ball extremely well for us. David Peterson is throwing the ball for us and giving us quality innings, so it’s guys like that that deserve a lot of credit for how well we’re playing.”
Scherzer, who was 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA before landing on the IL on May 19, said the multiple rehab starts allowed him to understand his injury better and learn exactly how much stress his oblique can take.
“You feel a lot more confident,” he said. “Now it’s in my rearview mirror and I’m ready to start getting after it again . . . Seeing how it could respond negatively actually gave me confidence to know exactly what I can and can’t do.”
The Mets will do what they can to protect Scherzer. He lined up to pitch Monday, but he’s getting the extra day to make sure he’s fully rested. Showalter said they’re not going to move him around too much in an effort to make him face tougher teams.
“We’re going to give him the rest that this injury might need but also try to stay on some sort of schedule for him,” Showalter said. “He doesn’t need to be jumping all over the place and trying to meet certain teams. I think you’ll see him stay on a pretty consistent schedule until the All-Star break. Make sure we’ve got him healthy.”