Rangers starter Max Scherzer hopes for next step in return after bullpen session

MIAMI – Texas Rangers pitcher Max Scherzer believes he has cleared a first hurdle by returning to the club after his bullpen session in Miami on Saturday.

The three-time Cy Young Award winner has not pitched again this season with the defending World Series champions after undergoing back surgery in December.

Scherzer threw about 25 pitches before the Rangers’ second game of their series against the Marlins. If he continues to show no ill effects, the next step would be for Scherzer to face hitters in batting practice.

“That is completely determined by how I recover,” Scherzer said on Sunday. “You can’t get ahead of yourself. All you can do is do this, your body responds and you do more. I felt great. I felt like I had finally put an end to this.”

Scherzer tried to make an earlier return last month, but was sidelined by a new setback. He experienced soreness in the thumb of his pitching hand after a minor league rehab outing on April 24 and was transferred to the 60-day injured list on May 15.

“My arm has always been fine,” Scherzer said. ‘Now it’s like the search engine light won’t go off. There is something wrong with the engine. We tackled it and now everything is firing on all cylinders. Now I can go a step further.”

The 39-year-old Scherzer, who has won 214 games in a 16-year career, joined the Rangers at the trade deadline last season. Scherzer made eight starts with Texas during its AL pennant-winning run. He started the third game of the World Series against Arizona, but was waived after three scoreless innings due to his back.

“We’ll see what the next step is,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’re looking at face-offs with hitters, a live (batting practice) deal. That is not etched in stone. So I have to talk to the trainer and Scherzer and see if he is ready for that.”