This year was a make or break year for Seattle Mariner’s pitcher James Paxton, who pitched brilliantly in his first stint with the Mariners back in 2013. He went 3-0 in four starts with a 1.50 ERA and was slated to be the Mariners’ third starter behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in 2014.
Unfortunately, Paxton’s next two seasons were plagued by injuries and he made just 13 starts in each season. Still even injured Paxton showed promise in those 26 total starts. He posted a 3.05 ERA in 2014 and a 3.90 in 2015.
Preparing for a good year in 2016, Paxton showed up to spring training this season 20 pounds lighter and in good shape.
Once again there were high hopes for the 27-year-old. However, it could have been the pressure of having to fight for a spot in the starting rotation or something with his mechanics but Paxton struggled all spring. He ultimately lost the Mariners’ fifth rotation spot to Nate Karns, who was acquired over the offseason from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Paxton was recently given a second chance, however, with the injury to the team’s ace Felix Hernandez. This time around he appears to be taking full advantage of that chance.
Despite a rough first outing, Paxton has been impressive. He’s really made an impression on first-year manager Scott Servais who said that he’s noticed that Paxton is pitching “aggressively” and with “an edge” that he’s never seen before from the left-hander.
For instance Paxton has let the team and the fans see the emotion that he usually holds inside and keeps to himself. He pitched out of jam on Saturday night in a close game with the AL West leading Texas Rangers. With runners on first and second with one out the Rangers appeared ready to strike. After striking out the next two batters to end the inning, Paxton let out a yell of victory as he walked off the mound.
Thus far Paxton’s 0-2 record can be deceiving. He’s started in three games and pitched 16.0 innings. As noted, his first outing was a bit of a disaster but he’s dominated in his last two starts. So far he’s posting a 2.25 ERA overall. He’s allowed 21 hits and 11 runs but only four of those runs were actually earned runs.
He’s also struck out a very impressive 24 batters over his 16.0 innings of work, giving him an average of 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Plus, he has only given up four walks over that span, giving him a strikeout to walk ratio of 6.00. To say he is showing signs of the 2013 James Paxton would be an understatement.
It’s exactly what the Mariners need right now as they find themselves in a position they are not often in – being without their ace. Hernandez is currently on the disabled list with a right calf strain. It is just the third time in the 30-year-old’s career that he’s ever been on the disabled list and he’s spent his entire career with the Mariners.
For more on King Felix and James Paxton’s chance to finally fit into a starting rotation – whether with the Mariners or another team … Follow the link below on Today’s Knuckleball to finish the rest of this story …..
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