Tonight, Seattle Mariners’ starting pitcher James Paxton made his first rehab start with the Tacoma Rainiers since prematurely leaving his last start with the Mariners on May 28 with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand. Unfortunately for Rainiers fans, his night was very short – he didn’t get out of the first inning and departed after 36 pitches against the Memphis Redbirds. The good news is that he reported no health issues after his brief stint.

When asked about his performance, the big left-hander indicated that he felt fine physically and had no issues with the finger. Also, he didn’t feel any fatigue related to the layoff or the hot and smoky conditions at Cheney Stadium. Overall, he was pleased with his performance although he admitted that he would have liked to have escaped the first inning. His goal for his next outing is to last longer and build upon tonight’s outing.

The southpaw’s greatest challenge during his professional career has always been repeating his delivery – which is key to his command. He certainly struggled in that department tonight. Although he threw 61-percent of his pitches for strikes, he managed to walk a hitter and throw a wild pitch that landed several feet in front of home plate. Redbirds hitters were aggressive early in the count, but had a hard time getting around on his fastball – which ranged between 92-95 mph. Accordingly, they fouled-off numerous pitches, which Paxton acknowledged that the multiple foul balls played a big part in his early departure.

Considering the frayed status of Seattle’s rotation, the team could use Paxton as soon as he’s ready – especially with teammates Taijuan Walker and Mike Montgomery approaching their innings limits for the season. Prior to sustaining his injury in late May, the 26-year-old had settled into a nice groove after a bumpy start to his 2015 season. In the six starts before the injury, he registered a superb 1.63 earned run average and .187 opponents batting average. That’s why the Mariners could really use his presence right now,  Getting Paxton back would provide the Mariners rotation with a much needed boost during the last days of a disappointing 2015 season.

Although the Mariners could desperately use him, it’s going to take time for Paxton to be ready for a major league return. Bear in mind that he’s essentially going through a second Spring Training after not facing live hitting for nearly three months. With that in mind, expect Paxton to make at least several more starts before he’s ready to rejoin the big league club. If he can stay on track, he should be back on the mound at Safeco Field sometime in September.

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