TAMPA, Fla. -- James Paxton has thrown about a dozen bullpen sessions in his return from back surgery performed in February, and the left-hander believes that he will be ready to take the ball in the Yankees’ rotation whenever the Major League season resumes.
“I can’t wait,” Paxton told the YES Network. “I’m really excited to get back out there and feel the adrenaline against some competition. It’ll be great once we get going again.”
The 31-year-old Paxton underwent back surgery in early February, addressing discomfort that dated to his final regular-season start on Sept. 27 at Texas. He had resumed playing catch before Spring Training was halted on March 12, and said then that his best-case scenario would be to pitch in big league games in mid-May.
Paxton has been working out at a facility in Eau Claire, Wis., where he has been throwing two bullpen sessions weekly, occasionally with hitters standing in. Paxton said that he sensed some trepidation before getting back on the mound following the procedure -- a microscopic lumbar discectomy and the removal of a peridiscal cyst -- and was relieved when there were no issues.
“I was feeling really good playing catch, so that was a really good sign,” Paxton said. “It’s always different when you get off the mound, so I was really interested to see how I was going to feel the next day. It turned out feeling really good. It's been getting better and better. The velocity is getting better and better, breaking balls and stuff like that, getting a feel for my pitches.”
Paxton said that he has been in communication with pitching coach Matt Blake, regularly uploading video of his sessions so the Yankees can analyze his progress. Paxton said that he is tinkering with the grip on his fastball in hopes of increasing his spin rate, as well as improving the feel for his breaking balls and changeup.
“I'm just trying to continue to progress,” Paxton said. “At some point it will be a bit of a holding pattern, because you can only go so far when you're not getting into a live game and facing other teams and getting that adrenaline going. But ... it's actually coming out pretty good right now. I’m just continuing to work on the repeatability of my delivery and the location of my pitches.”