James Paxton knew as soon as he took the mound for his pregame bullpen work on Thursday that something wasn’t quite right. His lower back was stiff and his normal fastball wasn’t popping as he struggled to get extension on his delivery.
Hoping to work through the issue once the adrenaline kicked in, the big lefty gave it a go. But that effort was short-lived as Paxton was pulled from Thursday’s 11-2 loss to the Angels after just 17 pitches following three runs on three quick hits, including two home runs.
“I felt it a little last game, but it was nothing that was stopping me from getting through my pitches,” Paxton said. “But I went out there tonight and tried to let it rip and it wouldn’t go. I wasn’t getting extension, there was no life on the ball and it was just kind of floating in there. [Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.] said he could tell something wasn’t right.”
The Mariners don’t believe Paxton’s issue is anything serious and it helps that the All-Star break is next week. That means they can probably put him on the 10-day disabled list in order to add pitching help for this weekend’s series in Colorado and bring him back potentially for the second series after the break against the Giants.
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Paxton has dealt with numerous injury issues over his career, but the 29-year-old has never had a back problem. He came into the game with an 8-3 record and 3.49 ERA in 19 starts and hadn’t missed a turn while racking up a team-high 118 2/3 innings. His ERA jumped to 3.70 in his final outing before the All-Star break.
Chasen Bradford replaced Paxton and got the final out of the inning after Paxton had given up a pair of home runs — a leadoff shot by rookie David Fletcher and then Albert Pujols’ blast after Mike Trout’s one-out single.
Paxton was regarded as a strong All-Star candidate when he got off to a 6-1 start with a 3.02 ERA in his first 14 starts and threw a no-hitter in Toronto in May, but he’s gone 2-2 with a 5.70 ERA over his last five starts.
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