Another day, another Max Scherzer simulated game and another reason to believe the Washington Nationals’ ace will return to the mound soon — depending, of course, on how he feels in the morning.

Scherzer threw 64 pitches Saturday, completing four mock innings in his second simulated game of the week. Manager Dave Martinez said Scherzer felt good afterward. Scherzer did not speak with reporters. The 35-year-old right-hander has been dealing with lingering injuries for six weeks and is on the 10-day injured list with a mild rhomboid strain below his right shoulder blade. Feeling okay while throwing has been normal. Waking up the next day pain-free has been the challenge.

“He wants to be on the mound. He wants to help us win. But this is part of it. He’s going to help us win. This is part of it,” Martinez said when asked why Scherzer appeared a mix of frustrated and fired up Saturday. “And hopefully tomorrow he wakes up, feels really good, and then we’ll go from there.”

The manager added that Scherzer will now go into his regular between-starts routine. That could line him up to face the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Thursday, with four days of rest between the simulated game and a potential outing. But that will depend on whether his shoulder recovers properly, and the Nationals won’t know until Sunday whether Scherzer is still on track.

When he is activated, whether that be Thursday or further into the future, he is expected to be on a pitch limit. Washington also will need to knock either Joe Ross or Erick Fedde out of the rotation. Both have made a strong case to stay on staff, and both will get at least one more chance to prove themselves before a decision is made.

Fedde, coming off a string of solid starts, will face the Milwaukee Brewers in the series finale at Nationals Park on Sunday. Ross, who has given up one run in his past 18 innings, is scheduled to face the Pirates on Monday. They have a combined 0.50 ERA in five August appearances. Martinez will have a bit of a conundrum, settling on five pitchers, but any difficulty will be softened by Scherzer’s return. The Nationals are just two weeks away from their roster expanding to 40 players.

“I’m going to be honest: It’s not going to be hard, because Max is coming back,” Martinez said of probably choosing between Fedde and Ross in the near future. “But we’ve got to figure out ways to keep them both going. Somehow, some way. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. But having Max back and fully healthy will be outstanding.”


Brewers (63-59)

Trent Grisham CF

Yasmani Grandal C

Christian Yelich RF

Keston Hiura 2B

Mike Moustakas 3B

Ryan Braun LF

Eric Thames 1B

Orlando Arcia SS

Jordan Lyles P

Nationals (66-65)

Trea Turner SS

Adam Eaton RF

Anthony Rendon 3B

Juan Soto LF

Asdrúbal Cabrera 2B

Matt Adams 1B

Kurt Suzuki C

Victor Robles CF

Aníbal Sánchez P