Max Scherzer set to make season debut Sunday for Rangers against Royals

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer is scheduled to make his season debut Sunday for the Texas Rangers in a start against the Kansas City Royals.

Scherzer hasn’t pitched for the Rangers since Game 3 of the World Series last fall. He had offseason surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back, then experienced right thumb soreness during his rehab this season that team doctors later identified as a nerve issue extending to his right triceps.

“I’ve been looking to get out here for the past six weeks,” Scherzer said before Saturday’s game. “I can’t wait. Just chomping at the bit to get out there.”

His return for the Rangers comes in their first series after earlier this week hosting the New York Mets, the team that traded Scherzer to Texas last year.

Scherzer, who turns 40 on July 27, struck out 17 and had a 4.91 ERA in three rehab starts for Triple-A Round Rock. The first was on April 24, but he was then sidelined by the nerve issue until the other two on June 9 and 15.

Scherzer said his debut was pushed back one day being “ultra careful” because of a loss of pitching grip in recent days.

“I wanted to let that completely get out of the system, get my thumb and hand back in position,” he said. “Because we know when you lose grip strength that’s kind of a precursor before bad things happen.

“I know I can get out there and pitch and compete. I just want to stay healthy.”

In his last rehab start, Scherzer struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings while allowing four hits and three runs. He threw 55 of his 79 pitches for strikes.

Manager Bruce Bochy said there will be no specific pitch count on him.

“We’ll watch the game and see how he feels every inning,” Bochy said. “He’s been stretched out. We’re not going to put a limit on him.”

After the trade last summer, Scherzer was 4-2 with a 3.20 ERA in eight starts for Texas, the last in the regular season on Sept. 12 before being sidelined by a muscle strain in his shoulder. He returned to make two starts in the American League Championship Series, then Game 3 of the World Series before exiting after three innings because of his back.

His 3,367 strikeouts, 214 wins and 448 games started are all second among active pitchers, trailing only Justin Verlander in each of those categories.

Scherzer said he “aced” rehab from the December back surgery but was concerned for his pitching future because of the nerve problem.

“This nerve stuff can be long-term damage and what it does to your arm,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with this thumb stuff, and I’ve been doing it for a year and would like to see some resolutions about it, but it is what it is."



The Associated Press