Paxton working hard to progress in offseason
SEATTLE -- James Paxton acknowledges 2015 has been a series of frustrations to this point, but the Mariners talented southpaw hopes to get things turned in a positive direction headed into next season as he closes out the year in the Arizona Fall League.
Paxton will be the starting pitcher Wednesday for the Peoria Javelinas as they play their second AFL game, following Tuesday's 6-5 victory over Surprise.
"It's going to be great to get on the mound and get some innings in," Paxton said last week before departing for Arizona. "I just want to get out there and work on some stuff and try to get as many innings as I can before I shut it down, so it puts me in the best position possible for next year."
Paxton made just 13 starts, going 3-4 with a 3.90 ERA in 67 innings, after opening the season as the Mariners' No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez. The lefty spent 3 1/2 months on the disabled list with a tendon injury in the middle finger of his pitching hand, then he was limited upon his return in September by a torn nail on the same finger.
The 26-year-old Canadian has been throwing in Arizona for the past week, and he hopes to make seven or eight starts during the AFL campaign, then possibly another couple in Puerto Rico or another Winter League at the end of November to further build up his arm after his limited work this summer.
"It's been a tough season, disappointing for myself and our team," Paxton said. "We were expecting to have much better results than we had. But I think we all have to learn from this season and what happened, and take those lessons into next season and be ready to compete.
"I think we absolutely have the talent in here to play winning baseball and get into the postseason. It's just a matter of everybody pulling together and learning their role. I think guys have taken steps forward in that and I think by next season we'll be ready to roll."
For Paxton, the lessons are obvious. After missing four months in 2014 with a strained lat muscle behind his left shoulder, and then dealing with a different injury this past season, he needs to find a way to keep himself on the mound, and be a dependable and durable member of the rotation.
"Obviously, staying healthy is the key for me," Paxton said. "The finger stuff is hard. It's so random. It's not like last time, with my lat injury, where my answer was working out more carefully and smarter. As far as this stuff goes, I don't even know what I could have done to prevent my finger injury.
"But for me, it was really hard this season to go through it and not be able to play. I had some down times for sure, just being unhappy. I just have to go on my path, and try to keep as positive an attitude as possible and help the team any way I can."
Paxton said not all was lost in 2015, as he watched and learned as much as he could and vows to find motivation in the situation going forward.
"I talk to [Taijuan Walker] a lot, and he really figured a lot of things out this year for himself," Paxton said. "And just watching Felix and [Hisashi Iwakuma] pitch, and talking to J.A. Happ when he was here, really helped me, him being a veteran left-handed guy. It was great for me to have him around to talk to and pick his brain."
After struggling in Seattle, Happ went to the Pirates in a July 31 trade, and he proceeded to post a 7-2 record and 1.85 ERA in 11 starts with the Pirates. That lesson wasn't lost on the young lefty either.
"You just have to keep on going," Paxton said.
• D.J. Peterson, the Mariners' No. 3 prospect on MLB Pipeline, went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run scored while playing first base for Peoria in Tuesday's AFL opener. Two other Mariners prospects also played, with shortstop Tyler Smith going 1-for-4 with a run scored, and right fielder Tyler O'Neill went 0-for-3 with a run.
• Left-hander Ryan Horstman, who went 3-0 and didn't allow a run in 13 2/3 innings of relief for Class-A Clinton and Everett last season, has replaced right-hander Tony Zych as one of the Mariners' representatives on the Peoria squad. Zych pitched more innings than expected for Seattle as a September callup, so he's been shut down for the offseason.
• Other Mariners members on the Peoria squad are left-handed relievers David Rollins and Paul Fry.