Max Scherzer felt pretty good in his return, but ‘it’s more about tomorrow than it is today’

Max Scherzer was mostly sharp over four innings Thursday in his return from the injured list. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH — Max Scherzer had to hold back a bit Thursday, resisting the temptation to give everything he had, realizing there was much more at stake than an August start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 35-year-old ace returned from the injured list and threw four innings in a 7-1 win. He finished at 71 pitches and gave up the Pirates’ only run. He felt good afterward — and reported no discomfort with the rhomboid strain that kept him out for an additional three-plus weeks — but the key is how he’ll recover from his second start since the all-star break, and first since July 25. Below is all of what Scherzer had to say to a group of reporters following the outing at PNC Park.

The questions are paraphrased. Scherzer’s answers appear in full.

Question: Your fastball seemed normal, how did you feel about the crispness of your pitches overall?

Scherzer: “Velocity has never been the problem with this. I’ve been able to throw hard this whole time. So I really wouldn’t judge it on that. I just wanted to come out here, never really emptied the tank tonight, and just tried to pitch. I can’t get hurt again, and that’s just the reality of this, so got out here and was able to go four innings, and get a good feel of getting back in there. Just getting back into game action, because now that’s real. You can simulate games all you want, but that’s not real, simulated games aren’t real. So to prepare for a lineup and face a team, those guys can hit, that was fun tonight.”

Question: How do you feel coming out of the start?

Scherzer: “Yeah, I feel pretty good. I feel pretty good. But like I said, this whole process of trying to learn what’s going on here, it’s the recovery. It’s more about tomorrow than it is today.”

Question: How do you best recover tonight with you guys flying to Chicago and probably not getting much sleep?

Scherzer: “Just sleep. Get in the room and sleep.”

Question: You’ve never had to deal with injuries like this before, has it been difficult to navigate?

Scherzer: “You’re right. Fortunately I’ve never been in this situation, but here I am. I got to deal with it. I have to understand what’s going on here, communicate with the trainers, doctors, understand what I can and can’t do. Try to communicate as much as I can, and just make sure I can recover every single start. Every time I touch the mound, whether it’s a bullpen or in a game, every time I touch the mound that I recover the next day. Right now, I feel good. Hopefully I wake up tomorrow I feel good, and if I do, it’s time to strengthen up and that’ll be a good sign if I feel good tomorrow.”

Question: If you do feel good tomorrow, how do you plan to build off this start?

Scherzer: “For me, it’s going to be strengthening this up so I can pitch 100 pitches, and when I need to, empty the tank. So for me, it’s just a product of what I got to do in the weight room, of all the different exercises I have to do to strengthen the whole area up. You know, this is a good start, but I’m not out of the woods.”

Question: Has it been hard to fight your competitive instincts during this process?

Scherzer: “No, because when I came back for the Colorado start [on July 25], given where we were at, I thought I could go out there and compete and realized this injury is trickier than anybody things. And so, for me, even pitching tonight, I can’t go back and just rear this thing as hard as I can. I got to pitch. I got to be controlled in my delivery and execute pitches, rather than just rearing back and throwing as far as I can.”

Question: Is it possible this could change your approach for the rest of the season, not just tonight?

Scherzer: “When you look at the schedule here, we got a couple off days coming up. So hopefully with the extra day, that extra day is going to be really huge right now. I’m eyeing the schedule, it allows me to get some extra shoulder work in in between these starts. I’m hoping the schedule allows for it, hopefully I rebound well, and I’m able to strengthen up so I can increase the pitch count and the intensity.”

Question: There could be some big division starts in September against the Braves, Phillies and Mets, have you thought about those at all?

Scherzer: “In some ways, but right now I’m living start to start. I’m living really day by day of what I can and can’t do, and trying to communicate with the trainers and strength coaches of hey, what exercises can we do to get back out there and get this thing as strong as possible? So, like I said, tonight was a good step. I got a lot more work in front of me.”

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