Scherzer pitches 3 innings in simulated game

NEW YORK — Max Scherzer could be back in the Mets’ rotation sooner rather than later.

The three-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher threw 50 pitches Thursday during a simulated game at Citi Field while recovering from a strained right oblique.

If he continues to feel good, the right-hander plans to make a rehab start in the minor leagues on Thursday. And it’s possible he could come back to the Mets later.

“It’s very difficult to speculate, because when you get to the next level you can put too much pressure on yourself. I don’t want to start thinking beyond what is possible now. This is a tricky injury,” Scherzer said.

“I’d love to tell you that I can do a rehab start, I’m going to feel great and I’m going to come back…Is that possible? Yes, but the reality is that I could also have a rehab start and feel stiff, so I’d rather hope to do another one before pitching in a major league game.

However, Scherzer denied being concerned about his general fitness to get back on the mound.

“I’m fine even though I’ve been limited a bit. If I can come back here making 70 or 80 pitches, give me the ball,” he emphasized.

Thus, it appears that the earliest Scherzer could pitch for the Mets would be June 26 in Miami. Five and a half weeks would pass like this since May 18, when he was injured in a game against San Luis.

After tests revealed the oblique strain, the Mets said this injury typically required six to eight weeks of recovery time.

A second rehab start in the minors would mean Scherzer’s return will be pushed back to the first weekend of July, at home against Texas. But even that calculation assumes no backlash.

“Hopefully he feels good tomorrow and we can take the next step,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He knows his body and his arm.”

Scherzer, who turns 38 next month, is 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA in eight starts in his first season with the Mets, with whom he signed a three-year, $130 million free agent deal.

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Scherzer pitches 3 innings in simulated game