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Max Scherzer on working to get to full strength: “I’m not out of the woods.”

Max Scherzer returned to the mound earlier this week in Pittsburgh, and he’s determined to stay in Washington’s rotation going forward after two IL stints.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Max Scherzer came out of his four-inning, 71-pitch outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night, feeling good about getting back on the mound for the first time since July 25th, though he cautioned that, as he’s been saying since the first of two injuries which limited him to one start since July 6th, that the big thing was how he recovered in the days after he pitched.

“I feel pretty good,” Washington’s 35-year-old, three-time Cy Young winner explained.

“I feel pretty good post-start, but like I said with this process of trying to learn what’s going on here, it’s the recovery, so it’s more about tomorrow than it is today.”

“I’m assuming he’s going to be sore, because he pitched, but we just want that typical soreness that he always gets, and if he has that then we’re good to go,” manager Davey Martinez told reporters, while acknowledging that if all goes well, Scherzer will take the mound again in the upcoming series with the Baltimore Orioles in the nation’s capital.

Asked how he’d handle that post-start recovery when he had to hop on a plane a few hours after pitching and fly from Pittsburgh to Chicago before he’d get to rest, Scherzer said he’d get through it, get to his hotel, and rest.

“Just sleep,” the Nationals’ ace said. “Get in the room and sleep.”

After getting what rest he could, Scherzer arrived at Wrigley Field for the Nationals’ 2:20 PM EDT series opener with the Chicago Cubs on Friday and spoke with reporters in the visitor’s dugout about how he was feeling a half a day after his first start back.

“I just know I’ve got to continue on the program,” he said. “I’m not out of the woods. I’ve got to still take care of this, got to do all the treatment, got to do all the strengthening and focus on that so I can build up the intensity in the game, so this is an endurance injury on my back, so they’ve got to treat it as such.”

Scherzer went on the Injured List twice after tweaking something in the lead-up to the All-Star Break, missing time with scapulothoracic bursitis and then a mild rhomboid strain.

Is he changing anything about his preparation between starts? Scherzer noted after facing the Pirates that he knows he can’t afford to have a setback now, with only a little more than a month left in the regular season.

“I’ll try to stay on my normal program,” he said. “That will be a bullpen here in a couple days, and continue and just see where I’m at and continue on forward to making my next start.”

“I understand more about this injury, more than ever, and right now I can go out there and pitch in a controlled manner and not just try to rear back and throw as hard as I can in certain situations, and ... heck, in some ways this might make me a better pitcher, when I come out on the other side I might be a better pitcher because of this, because of what I’m having to learn how to do right now, and how to be able to still be sharp and yet still be controlled, so let’s look at this glass half full.”