* Seattle Mariners LHP James Paxton (Ladner, BC) pitched six innings allowing one run in a 7-2 win over the Detroit Tigers Friday night at Comerica Park. The win by the former North Delta Blue Jays inched the Mariners ahead of the Tigers in the race for the second wild-card. Paxton, an unsigned Blue Jays draft 6-0 with a 1.81 ERA in nine career starts in the majors. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in College …. MLB Scouting Bureau camps 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
Seattle, WA – James Paxton might be just what the doctor ordered for the Seattle Mariners.
With only four big-league starts under his belt so far this season because of two different injuries, the 25-year-old left-hander has a fresh arm in a rotation that has logged a significant number of innings for a playoff-bound club.
“That’s why I’m so excited about Paxton,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Paxton is like a free-agent sign, coming in this late. I look for big things out of him. I think he’s going to be special down the stretch for us.”
Seattle sits even with the Detroit Tigers in the race for the second American League wild card spot with less than two months remaining in the season. Though his time off the mound wasn’t ideal, Paxton is excited for what lies ahead and what his rest could mean to the team.
“I’m feeling really good now,” the left-hander said. “I’m feeling really strong and the ball is coming out well. For me, it’s [like] the beginning of the season because I was out for so long. I don’t have many innings and I’m feeling like I’m ready to go. I’ve got as many innings as they want and I’m sure I won’t even get enough with the rest of the season and hopefully the post-season.
“But I will be 100% ready to go.”
Over eight total games in the majors, with four starts last September for the Mariners, Paxton is 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA through 46 2/3 innings. He’s walked 12 batters, two intentionally, fanned 43, and held opponents to a .186 average.
After mentioning during spring training that he thought he had a shutdown staff, McClendon was asked to clarify before Tuesday’s matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays. He immediately named Paxton as a big reason for that statement, adding that he doesn’t believe the southpaw gets the attention he deserves.
“Paxton flew under the radar the whole spring,” the skipper said. “Nobody really talked about Paxton, but I thought he had great stuff. He has shutdown stuff. He’s a left-hander throwing 99 [miles per hour], easy. I mean, come on…That’s why I was so confident in what we had.”
Assurance like that doesn’t hurt to hear.
“That’s great to have the support from the coaching staff,” Paxton said. “All I’m going to do is continue to work hard and prepare for my starts and help give my team the best chance to win.”
That, of course, is a lot easier to say now than it had was earlier in the year, after a strained lat muscle took the young lefty off the active roster less than two weeks into the season, cutting his second start short.
“When I got injured the first time, that was hard,” he said. “I had that great first game in LA [against the Angels] and then I came out here and I had my second game, versus LA also. I got to start the home opener which was really exciting, and I was really pumped about that.
“It was just one of those unfortunate things. It happens. It was tough to go through that, but I’m glad to be at the other side now.”
Finally on the other side, after experiencing another setback just as he was set to return from the lat strain.
“That was hard to deal with because I was so close to being back and then we had that little bit of shoulder soreness,” Paxton said. “But you’ve got to keep going. You can’t do anything about that stuff and you have to deal with it and keep on moving forward.”
Moving forward through the ups and downs was a message that Paxton passed on to fellow Ladner, B.C. native Tom Robson before the season, as the two occasionally get together over the winters. This year, both young pitchers have endured significant injury experiences, Robson the victim of Tommy John surgery, and Paxton continues to try to pass on what he’s learned.
“The biggest downs that I’ve had was getting injured,” Paxton said. “Right now, [Robson] is injured also…I talked to him a little while ago actually. I messaged him on Facebook and told him to give me a call if he needed to talk or anything. I think we’re going to get together in the off-season at some point…
“Those things happen, and throughout a career you’re going to get hurt. Lucky guys don’t, but most players have to go through an injury at some point in their career. There’s really nothing you can do other than make sure you work hard and rehab it the right way so when you come back you’re healthy and you learn from it so it won’t happen again.”
Paxton has certainly learned how difficult it is to sit and watch his team on the field, without having a turn to help the squad.
“The hardest part was not being able to contribute and feel like I was part of the team, and help the team,” he said. “I was able to stay with the team here in Seattle and cheer them on from the dugout, but it was hard not to go out there and be part of it.”
Now two successful starts back into the Mariners rotation, Paxton continues to work on everything he'd started before being sidelined. He has had continued success with his changeup and is still working on a cutter that he developed at the end of last season before joining the big-league club for the first time.
“My changeup was really good for me last game and it’s been getting better and better,” Paxton said. “I worked on that stuff while I was coming back from my rehab and in my bullpens and everything. I feel like I’m making really good strides forward with those pitches.
“[The cutter] is getting better and better. Some games it’s better than others, but it’s a continued work in progress. I feel like it always is with these pitches. I’m working towards finding consistency with it.”
Making his next start on Friday against the Tigers in Detroit, Paxton missed a chance to start in front of a hometown crowd, as Canadian fans invaded Safeco Field for the Toronto Blue Jays three-game series, which the Mariners swept. But he’s seen it before, and even been a part of the cross-border contingent in the past.
“Yeah, I have, and I knew that the Blue Jays fans would come down from Vancouver,” he said. “It was a lot of fun with that big crowd last night and everything that was going on. It was a really good atmosphere.”
Plus, he got to hear his country’s national anthem for the first time this season.
“That was cool,” Paxton said. “I don’t get to hear it very often, so that was a lot of fun for me.”
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis