Mariners’ James Paxton rusty, but feels good in AquaSox start

EVERETT — It might not have been perfect, but it was still mission accomplished for James Paxton.

The Seattle Mariners pitcher, making a rehabilitation start with the Everett AquaSox on Thursday night at Everett Memorial Stadium, passed the physical test in his latest attempt at coming back from injury.

The 25-year-old rookie left-hander, who’s recovering from back and arm issues, didn’t escape unscathed on the scoreboard. But more importantly, his body held up physically in his first live action since late May.

“There were no problems at all, I felt healthy,” Paxton said. “The No. 1 goal for tonight was to just go out there and make sure I was healthy.

“It felt real good,” Paxton added. “There was no pain in my shoulder or the lat or anything, it felt really good. I was happy with that.”

Paxton, one of the top prospects in the Mariners organization, had his promising start to the season derailed by injury. The Richmond, B.C., native won each of his first two starts with Seattle in impressive fashion, but he suffered a strained latissimus dorsi muscle on the left side of his back during his start April 8 against the Los Angeles Angels.

He was originally expected to miss six-to-eight weeks, but suffered a setback during his first rehabilitation start with Class AAA Tacoma on May 24. He felt stiffness in his left triceps muscle forcing him to the sidelines again.

After another six weeks on the shelf, Paxton threw a successful 53-pitch simulated game last Saturday in Seattle, precipitating Thursday’s rehab start with the Sox.

Paxton was originally scheduled to throw three innings for Everett against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, but he ended up being removed after 22/3 frames. He allowed two runs on two hits and one walk, including giving up a solo home run to Sam Mende in the second inning, and struck out two batters. He used his entire repertoire of pitches, though he relied heavily on a fastball that sat in the low 90s and topped out at 93 mph on the stadium radar gun.

“I felt like I didn’t have my feel there tonight too well,” Paxton said. “I was a little loose and the ball was flying around a little bit, leaving it up. But that’s all part of coming back and getting that feel for your pitches. Overall, I was really happy.”

Paxton’s next rehab start is expected to be with Tacoma.

“The next start will be just sharpening up a little bit, moving the ball in and out and staying down,” Paxton said. “I left a few balls up tonight — obviously that one that got out I left up over the plate — so I want to execute my off speed pitches. Pitch execution will take a step forward, hopefully.”

Whether Paxton will be ready for a return to the Mariners following his next rehab start is still to be determined.

“I’m not sure, that’s not my decision to make,” Paxton said. “We’ll just see how I do the next start and it’ll be up to the big guys.”

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