By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Left-hander James Paxton, pain-free in his recovery from a strained back muscle, is now on target to rejoin the Seattle Mariners’ rotation within two weeks.
Paxton joined the club Saturday at Angel Stadium for his regular bullpen workout as the next step to a scheduled 60-pitch outing Tuesday for Class AAA Tacoma against Las Vegas at Cheney Stadium.
“My routine is pretty much back to the way it was when I was pitching,” Paxton said. “Waiter (pitching coach Rick Waits) was telling me that he wants me to act like it’s just a normal (routine) for what I do between starts.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon outlined a best-case scenario that has Paxton making 60 pitches Tuesday and increasing to 75 pitches for a projected July 27 start against Sacramento.
That could position Paxton for an early August return to the Mariners.
“You, obviously, think about it a little bit,” he admitted. “But I’m just trying to focus on one day at a time. Right now, I was focusing on the work I had to do today, and getting ready for the game on Tuesday.”
Paxton began his latest rehab assignment Thursday by throwing 42 pitches over 22/3 innings at Class Short-A Everett. The numbers were mixed — two runs and two hits, one walk and two strikeouts — but encouraging.
“The ball was coming out really well,” Paxton said. “No pain at all, so that was great. I’m finally getting some of that feel back for my pitches. I had that adrenaline jump, and I was kind of all over the place.
“But I threw a bullpen (Saturday), and I was feeling really good. I was hitting my spots. I’m excited for my next time out.”
That “no pain” is the biggest factor.
Paxton was diagnosed with a strained left latissimus dorsi muscle after his April 8 start against the Angels at Safeco Field. An earlier rehab assignment ended when shoulder soreness surfaced after his May 24 start at Tacoma.
“Nothing this time,” he emphasized. “Feel great. Bullpen went great today, so we’re rolling forward.”