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Paxton, Mariners prep for chilly Minny weather

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SAN FRANCISCO -- With a short turnaround before Thursday afternoon's series opener against the Twins at Target Field, Mariners starter James Paxton flew on ahead of the team on Wednesday to get rested and ready.

The rest of the Mariners won't get to Minneapolis until likely 3 a.m. CT and will face a short turnaround after Wednesday's series finale against the Giants. But what Paxton and his teammates will have trouble preparing for is the mid-30s temperatures expected for game time on Thursday, with the thermometer expected to drop below freezing before the game ends.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- With a short turnaround before Thursday afternoon's series opener against the Twins at Target Field, Mariners starter James Paxton flew on ahead of the team on Wednesday to get rested and ready.

The rest of the Mariners won't get to Minneapolis until likely 3 a.m. CT and will face a short turnaround after Wednesday's series finale against the Giants. But what Paxton and his teammates will have trouble preparing for is the mid-30s temperatures expected for game time on Thursday, with the thermometer expected to drop below freezing before the game ends.

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"Everyone is playing in the same conditions," Paxton said. "Don't go out there and make excuses. It is what it is and just go get 'em. I'll just try to stay warm between innings."

The coldest at start time in Major League history is believed to be 23 degrees for a Rockies game against the Braves on April 23, 2013 at Coors Field. The Mariners have had some early season winter weather in their history as well, having four games snowed out to start their first road trip in Cleveland in 2007, and playing a game in Detroit with 36 degree first pitch and 15 mph winds in 2000.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said his club will deal with the weather when it gets to Minnesota, where the forecasted high for Saturday is 30 degrees with a low of 10, while Sunday's forecast for the final game of the series calls for a high of 31 with snow showers. There is a scheduled off-day in the middle of the three-game series on Friday, when a high of 25 and low of 9 is in the forecast.

But while Servais didn't want to look too far ahead, he does think Paxton will have some advantages in the chilly weather. One being that batters don't particularly enjoy facing upper 90s fastballs with freezing hands, as well as the fact that Paxton grew up in Ladner, B.C., and lived this offseason in Eau Claire, Wis.

"Pax owns a home in the upper Midwest in Wisconsin, so he was around it a little bit this winter," said Servais, who hails from LaCrosse, Wis. "He's looking forward to it. He says it'll be to his advantage. And he actually has a good point. I think it's better for the pitchers on those days."

Paxton said his winter preparation could help, but his coldest game on memory was actually in the Pacific Northwest.

"Probably one in Tacoma early in the season when it was raining and cold, so kind of double," he said. "Ladner is kind of like Seattle weather and we started a little late there, so it was usually in the 40s or something there. I've pitched and it was cold, but I don't remember ever pitching in the 30s."

Zunino progressing
Catcher Mike Zunino could come off the 10-day disabled list as early as this weekend, Servais said, as Zunino continues progressing from the left oblique strain he sustained the day before the season opener.

Zunino caught rehabbing right-hander Erasmo Ramirez in a simulated game on Tuesday with Triple-A Tacoma and Zunino could be in line for a Minor League rehab start -- likely with Double-A Arkansas to avoid cold weather -- before he's eligible to come off the DL by Saturday.

Servais said Ramirez -- sidelined since mid-February with a strained right lat muscle -- also came out of the workout without any issues and will now start building up in Minor League games. Ramirez will likely throw two innings or about 35 pitches in his first outing, then build up with a few starts before joining the Mariners.

Servais said he'd need to be ready to throw about 75-80 pitches before being ready to join the Mariners as their fifth starter, a role Ariel Miranda will fill initially when needed next Wednesday in Kansas City.

Left fielder Ben Gamel (strained right oblique) also took part in Tuesday's simulated game and he is expected to start his Minor League rehab on Thursday when Tacoma opens its season.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Ben Gamel, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Mike Zunino