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Scherzer plans to return from neck injury soon

MLB.com @JamalCollier

HOUSTON -- Nationals ace Max Scherzer threw off flat ground prior to Thursday's game against the Astros and reiterated it is just a matter of days before he should be able to return from his neck injury.

The inflammation in the left side of his neck has not completely subsided, but it has improved from a grabbing feeling over the past few days to what Scherzer described as a stiff feeling Thursday. He took that as an encouraging sign, because the pain usually goes away quickly after that.

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HOUSTON -- Nationals ace Max Scherzer threw off flat ground prior to Thursday's game against the Astros and reiterated it is just a matter of days before he should be able to return from his neck injury.

The inflammation in the left side of his neck has not completely subsided, but it has improved from a grabbing feeling over the past few days to what Scherzer described as a stiff feeling Thursday. He took that as an encouraging sign, because the pain usually goes away quickly after that.

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Scherzer expects to throw a bullpen session soon, and if all goes well, he should be able to retake the mound about two days after that.

"I'm not concerned," he said. "Now it's a matter of which day I'm actually back."

That bullpen session could come as soon as Friday, the day he was scheduled to come off the DL and start against the Mets at Nationals Park. Instead, right-hander A.J. Cole will get called up to make the start. Washington has revealed only one pitcher -- Tanner Roark -- for Sunday's split doubleheader against New York, and manager Dusty Baker said the other hinges on Scherzer's availability.

First, Scherzer must throw a bullpen session to be sure his neck can withstand him throwing at 100 percent off the incline of a mound.

"[My neck's] probably going to be weak, but I'm not going to be damaging it by getting on the mound," Scherzer said of the final hurdle. "I kind of know what that feeling feels like. Not there today, but could be there tomorrow."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Max Scherzer