TACOMA, Wash. — Seattle Mariners left-hander James Paxton made his first rehab start Saturday on his path back to the active roster and while the end-result was encouraging — despite a poor final line — it’s clear he’s not ready to return from the disabled list just yet. That fact should not be surprising, though, since he’s been out six weeks and is basically going through another spring training right now.
Paxton threw 62 pitches, 38 for strikes, sitting 90-91 mph with his fastball, touching 92 on a number of occasions. As one would expect, his command was not there due to an inconsistent release point. It appeared as if he was having some balance problems with his land foot, another very common issue at this stage of rehab. He did flash the good curveball at 79-82 mph and had a good changeup most of his three innings. He was set to get to 75 pitches, but threw the final 13 of those in the bullpen at Cheney Stadium.
He wasn’t hit hard, but did yield a few squared-up luine drives. He also punched out five to counter two walks, four hits and two earned runs.
Paxton said after the game that he could have thrown the full 75, felt fine, and believes he’s getting closer. “I think it was good. Felt like the ball was coming out pretty well. Still got a few things to work on, get some timing back and stuff, but it was pretty good.
“I feel like it’s one tick away with that timing, getting that back, everything firing at the right time. I think it’s just really close right now.”
Close? Perhaps. In my opinion, however, he needs and will get at least one more start in the minors. He may get two, but it depends on how well start No. 2 goes.
Paxton said he will have a conversation with the Mariners Sunday to determine what the next step is moving forward. How his shoulder responds during the coming 24-48 hours also will help determine what comes next.