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Paxton hopes for 2 starts in season's final week

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, July 30, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S. Warren/AP)
September 19, 2018

HOUSTON -- Lefty James Paxton still wasn't feeling 100 percent when he threw a 40-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, so he'll have another similar workout on Friday, when the club gets to Arlington, before rejoining the rotation in Seattle during the season's final week."I felt good,

HOUSTON -- Lefty James Paxton still wasn't feeling 100 percent when he threw a 40-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, so he'll have another similar workout on Friday, when the club gets to Arlington, before rejoining the rotation in Seattle during the season's final week.
"I felt good, but I was pretty gassed afterward," said Paxton, who has missed two starts since being stricken by the flu and pneumonia but remains hopeful of making two starts in the last week.
Felix Hernandez, who has been in Seattle rehabbing a sore right hamstring, will rejoin the club in Arlington and also throw a bullpen session on Friday before a decision is made on whether he'll be used in the final week as well.
Some fans question why either pitcher would return at this point with the team's postseason hopes now all but over, as the Mariners entered play on Wednesday seven games behind the A's with 11 games remaining.
For Paxton the reasons are simple. He's pitched a career-best 150 1/3 innings this season, but he would like to increase his workload closer to where he wants to be in 2019.
"I'm really hoping to get two more starts in and get an opportunity to get to that 160-inning mark," he said. "I think that would set me up well for getting ready to go 200-plus innings next year."
Paxton would need to pitch either Monday or Tuesday against the A's in order to have time to get a second start before the season ends against Texas. Manager Scott Servais wants to see how Paxton feels this weekend before making any promises.
"We'll try to make it work for all the guys," Servais said. "[Paxton] made it clear he'd like to make a couple turns. I don't see why he couldn't, but we'll wait and see how his bullpen goes on Friday."
Servais agrees that raising Paxton's workload this season would be beneficial. Marco Gonzales struggled in the second half this season after making a big jump in innings pitched from 2017, and all teams believe that a gradual increase from year to year is advantageous.
"If you're healthy, you want to finish the season healthy and get your innings up a little, knowing that you've been there before," Servais said. "We're going through it with Marco right now. Pax has never gone through a complete season where he hasn't had to deal with something, so it is important he gets his innings up there.
"The goal is to get to 200. Not many guys get there, but if you come close, you've had a heck of a season. If he can get to 160, that'd be great ... and it puts him in line to throw 185 to 190 next year."
Paxton, who is 11-6 with a 3.83 ERA in 26 starts, has one further motivation.
"It'd be great to get those starts in at home and try to win some games for our fans and show our appreciation for their support all season," he said. "We'll do the best we can."
Contract with Everett extended
The Mariners' Player Development Contract with the Class A Short Season Everett AquaSox, which previously ran through 2020, has been extended through '22 in an agreement announced on Wednesday by the two organizations.
Everett has been affiliated with the Mariners for 24 seasons and finished tied for second in the Northwest League North this past year at 38-38, with a club that included 21 players selected by Seattle in this year's Draft.
"The Mariners and AquaSox have had a stable relationship dating back to 1995, and we look forward to continuing working together for many years to come," said general manager Jerry Dipoto. "We are in a unique situation, having our Northwest affiliate so close to Seattle. The city of Everett and the AquaSox fan base have always been great supporters of our Minor Leaguers and the entire Mariners organization."

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