Mariners place left-hander Paxton on 15-day DL with strained back muscle

SEATTLE — A day after making an early exit from another impressive outing, Mariners pitcher James Paxton was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

The good news, however, is that the team is still calling the injury a left latissimus dorsi muscle strain, with strain being the operative word. As was the case Tuesday night, Paxton remained fairly upbeat, saying he doesn’t believe the injury to be a serious one.

“Right now it’s just a strained lat,” he said. “We’re kind of still in the assessment stage right now, so we’re still trying to decide what’s going to happen. Obviously I’m on the 15-day DL right now, then we’ll reevaluate after those 15 days and see where I’m at.”

“I wasn’t sore this morning, wasn’t hurting. My strength was really good, so I was feeling pretty good about it, but we just want to be careful with it right now.”

Even if Paxton did avoid a serious injury, the fact that he’ll have to miss any time is disappointing for the Mariners, not just because they are thin in their rotation with Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker already on the DL, but also because of how well Paxton has pitched in his young career.

After a rough first inning Tuesday, Paxton settled down and retired 14 in a row before allowing a leadoff single in the sixth inning, which occurred after the lat strain. That victory improved Paxton’s record to 2-0 this season, and 5-0 in his brief career having pitched well as a September call-up last year.

“It’s tough,” Paxton said. “I was feeling good out there. It’s not the ideal situation, but I’m just going to deal with it and get ready to go.”

With Paxton on the DL, reliever Lucas Luetge was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to fill the roster spot. Chris Young, whose spot in the rotation was skipped because of last week’s rainout in Oakland, will make his first start as a Mariner on Sunday in what would have been Paxton’s place in the rotation, McClendon said.

Paxton’s injury also means that, for the time being, all of Seattle’s once-hyped “Big Three” pitching prospects—Danny Hultzen, Walker and Paxton—are on the disabled list.

Iwakuma: bullpen session “felt good”

Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma continued his road back from an injured finger, throwing off a mound for the first time since suffering the injury earlier this year. Iwakuma said he threw 34 four pitches, 30 fastballs and four curveballs.

“It felt good,” Iwakuma said through an interpreter. “It’s been a while since I was in the bullpen, so that’s always nice… I was able to focus, so it went well.”

Iwakuma said the finger is pain free, and that the bullpen session was good for him to get used to throwing off a mound again. Next up is another bullpen on Saturday, during which Iwakuma hopes to work in his slider in addition to the curve and fastball.

The All-Star right-hander wouldn’t put a timeline on much beyond that such as a rehab stint.

“I’m taking one day at a time, that’s up to the trainers, what they see, the pitching coach, what he sees,” Iwakuma said. “From my standpoint, hopefully soon, but I leave that up to them. I just progress one day at a time and go from there.”

Herald Writer John Boyle:

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