Thirty minutes before the scheduled first pitch at Dunkin’ Donuts Park Wednesday, New York Mets star pitcher Max Scherzer made his way from the clubhouse into the Binghamton Rumble Ponies’ dugout.
A chorus of young fans in Mets jerseys leaned over the railing, hoping for a glimpse of one of baseball’s premier pitchers. With his typical tenacity, the stone-faced three-time Cy Young winner took a seat three-quarters of the way down the Binghamton bench.
Scherzer rested his arms on his knees and sat still, head down, focused on the Hartford Yard Goats’ lineup he was about to face in his second Double A rehab start.
Scherzer, an eight-time all-star and a 2019 World Series champion, suffered a strained oblique in his May 18 start against the St. Louis Cardinals. Sidelined six weeks, he returned to live-game action on June 21 when he threw 65 pitches through 3 1/3 innings for the Rumble Ponies.
Dunkin’ Donuts Park sold out, hosting 6,850 fans for the second straight night after it was initially announced Scherzer would start Tuesday. The Mets opted to give him an extra day of rest before he took the mound Wednesday.
With his pitch count upped to a strict 80 on Wednesday, Scherzer finished 4 2/3 innings and allowed four hits, two earned runs and a walk while striking out eight.
“I felt good out there,” Scherzer said after being removed from the game in the fifth inning. “I had to work through some traffic, I was able to come back out and get five ups in and get 80 pitches in. Everything felt good. I’m good to go.”
Scherzer sat around 94-97 mph with his fastball and was able to work all of the pitches in his repertoire.
“On the arm specifically, I had another hitter or two, my arm feels great,” Scherzer said. “This is where you gotta be careful with this. As you’re working your way back, this injury specifically, not going too far beyond where you were previously. So I was at 65 pitches, they basically had an 80-pitch count on and I wasn’t gonna get more than that.”
Mets jerseys were aplenty in Dunkin’ Donuts Park, some of them Scherzer, others Pete Alonso and Jacob DeGrom – the Mets’ other ace who is also sidelined with a stress reaction in his right shoulder.
“Just to see him back and throwing hard and focused is nice,” said Jason Ofiero, a Mets fan from Danbury who had a front row seat next to the Rumble Ponies’ dugout. “The Mets need him back after three losses in a row so yeah, it was it was good to see him out here again and actually look pretty good.”
Scherzer signed a three-year, $130 million deal with the Mets in November 2021, and is eager to return to Queens.
“Now, the rehab kind of calms down a little bit,” Scherzer said. “Now it’s more just focused on pitching. I really feel confident about going through this turn now of how I will prepare for my next start. It won’t be as much rehab in the process. So I really don’t think that’s going to overload the oblique on this turn that will allow me to make my next start in five days.”
Scherzer said he doesn’t see himself having to make a third rehab start, he is ready to go – after, of course, making sure the Rumble Ponies eat well after the game. “They’re eating well tonight,” he said.