In general, 30 total starts in your first three MLB seasons is not a number any starting pitcher wants to see, but Seattle Mariners southpaw James Paxton made it very clear what he wants to show coming into 2016.
“It’s time for me to show I can last for an entire season,” he said.
Paxton has made a concerted effort this offseason to get in better shape and avoid the injury bug that has bitten him in his short career.
According to Mariners trainer Rick Griffin, Paxton has lost about 20 pounds and looked noticeably slimmer when he appeared at Mariners Fan Fest over the weekend, surprising many fans and teammates. In 2015, he was around 240 pounds, but says he’s “hovering” around 215-220 pounds.
Paxton lives in Kirkland, WA which is not very far from Safeco Field and he said that he worked out at Safeco Field every day to get in better shape. It was a plan, to an extent, with Griffin for Paxton to cut down the weight and now he seems ready to go.
As for the injuries, however, the hope is that those will be done with.
“Hopefully, I’m done with those and ready to move on,” he said.
The reason that Paxton has made just 30 starts in three seasons is because of the aforementioned injuries. In 2014, Paxton suffered a lat muscle strain early in April in Seattle’s home opener and then had to deal with shoulder tendinitis which kept him out about four months.
The 2015 season wasn’t much kinder to Paxton as he strained a middle finger tendon which kept him out until September and then had a torn fingernail to deal with as the season wound down.
“My lat injury was because I was working out too hard,” he said. “I needed to draw back a little bit once the season started and I’ve learned that. The finger stuff I feel like that was just a fluke thing and bad luck.”
When healthy, Paxton is a great pitcher for the Mariners staff, or really any staff in the league. He has a nice, calm delivery as a lefty and what looks to be a low-90s fastball, rushes up to the plate around 96-97 MPH. The deception from his delivery is what sets Paxton apart as a flame-throwing southpaw.
In his 30 career starts, Paxton is 12-8 with a 3.16 ERA to go along with 136 strikeouts in 165 innings.
With his lighter frame, the hope is that it should help in his mechanics and fielding.
“I think just overall I won’t get as tired,” Paxton said. “I won’t be moving around as much weight and I think it will be easier for me to control.”
Paxton was able to throw in the Arizona Fall League and did make seven starts. Because of that nail issue though, he didn’t throw his curveball to protect that nail, which forced him to work on other parts of his repertoire.
Coming into 2016, the battle for a starting job will be fairly competitive as the Mariners rotation has three spots already locked in with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Wade Miley. That leaves the remaining two spots for two of Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Nate Karns.
“It’s going to be competitive thing,” he said. “That’s what baseball is. Nobody said it was going to be easy. I’m looking forward to the competition.”
New Mariners manager Scott Servais will have a nice selection of pitchers to choose from and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Paxton as one of those five starters, and one that can excel in 2016.
Quotes via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times