Scherzer faces live hitters, hopes for ALDS return

BALTIMORE — With the hope of returning to the Texas Rangers‘ playoff roster, Max Scherzer threw to live batters on Friday for the first time since he last pitched on Sept. 12 and went on the injured list with a right shoulder strain.

Throwing two innings of a simulated game against Rangers teammates, Scherzer threw nearly 40 pitches and left the field with fists bumps for manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Mike Maddux.

“I felt good,” he said. “I’ve got to recover. I’ve got to see how I wake up tomorrow and see what this does to the arm.”

Scherzer said he’s open to any possible role in the division series against the Baltimore Orioles, although it’s not clear yet if he’ll be added to the roster.

“That’s not my decision,” he said. “We’ll have a discussion about it. But it’s October and all hands on deck. I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team.”

Scherzer was in good spirits during the session, chasing after one infield popup — and dropping it to jeers from Rangers personnel and a few players watching from the dugout. In an 18-pitch “second inning,” he struck out Mitch Garver and Austin Hedges and recorded five swing-and-misses, an indication that his velocity and stuff looked good.

There was just one hard-hit ball off him in the two innings, a Garver hard grounder down the third-base line. It’s possible the Rangers could use Scherzer in a relief role as their bullpen has been shaky all season with a 4.77 ERA, worst among the 12 playoff teams, including a 5.08 ERA in the final month.

In the two-game sweep against the Rays, starters Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi both pitched relatively deep into their respective games, and the bullpen did toss 4⅓ scoreless innings.

Scherzer admitted it’s not all clear moving forward.

“I respect the recovery process,” he said. “I understand what I’m going up against in the recovery process.”

Initial reports after Scherzer strained his right teres muscle had the Rangers saying it was unlikely Scherzer would be able to pitch in the postseason.

The Rangers also announced left-hander Andrew Heaney will start Game 1 opposite Baltimore’s Kyle Bradish. Heaney went 10-6 with a 4.15 ERA but had pitched most of September out of the bullpen until injuries necessitated a start in the team’s final series, when he pitched 4.1 scoreless innings against Seattle.

The Orioles were a little better in the regular season against left-handers, although Gunnar Henderson, who led the team in OPS, was much stronger against right-handed pitching. Starting Heaney is also a nod to Camden Yards. Heaney is a fly ball pitcher who allowed 23 home runs in 147.1 innings, but the new left field at Camden, renovated last season when the fence was moved out, is one now one of the toughest home run parks for right-handed batters.

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