SEATTLE -- James Paxton will make one last start this season as manager Scott Servais has slotted the big lefty for Saturday's game against the Rangers in what will be his second game after returning from a two-week bout with pneumonia.Paxton has gone 11-6 with a 3.85 ERA in a
SEATTLE -- James Paxton will make one last start this season as manager Scott Servais has slotted the big lefty for Saturday's game against the Rangers in what will be his second game after returning from a two-week bout with pneumonia.
Paxton has gone 11-6 with a 3.85 ERA in a career-high 27 starts this season and would like to push his innings total -- currently at 154 1/3 -- up around 160 in order to set up a more gradual progression to the 190-200 range next season.
"I'm real happy getting another opportunity to pitch this year," Paxton said prior to Thursday's series opener with the Rangers. "I'll just continue to work and try to find that rhythm and sharpness that I want and feel good going into the offseason. I know what I need to work on strength-wise, body-wise, pitching-wise and go to work and come back ready to roll."
Veteran Wade LeBlanc will make his final start on Friday, followed by Paxton in Saturday's 6:10 p.m. PT game. Servais hasn't named a starter for Sunday's 12:10 p.m. PT finale, which would seem to indicate a bullpen day may be in order.
Paxton was limited to four innings and 71 pitches in his first game back from his illness on Monday, allowing three hits and two runs in a no-decision in a game the Mariners wound up losing, 7-3.
The 29-year-old has 199 strikeouts on the season, one shy of becoming the sixth Mariners pitcher to reach 200 and first since Felix Hernandez in 2014. Randy Johnson did it seven times, Hernandez six, Mark Langston four, and Floyd Bannister and Erik Hanson one each.
But Paxton is most interested in just ending the season healthy, which was his primary goal coming into the year.
"Absolutely," he said. "I was going good there for a while, felt really good, then the back thing happened and it kind of lingered. I made some adjustments to try to find a comfort spot and it didn't really help me.
"I've had to try to re-find myself since then and unfortunately I got hit in the elbow and then got sick. It was just back-to-back, trying to get back to that place where I'm successful. The number one thing for me is health and staying where I'm good, so that'll again be what I focus on this offseason."
• It appears Mike Leake won't make the final start on Sunday. If that is the case, he will end the year as just the second pitcher since the live-ball era began in 1920 to record seven straight seasons of 30-plus starts with 50 or fewer walks. Greg Maddux pulled that feat off 13 straight years from 1996-2008. Roy Halladay (2006-11) and Fritz Peterson (1969-74) each had six such seasons.
• Friday's game will be Fan Appreciation Night, with all fans receiving a team poster that includes next year's schedule. Prizes will also be given out throughout the game and the night will end with a postgame fireworks show.
Saturday's game will a Ken Griffey Jr. Pop collectible giveaway to the first 20,000 fans, while Sunday is Kids Appreciation Day with all kids ages 14 and younger receiving a Mariners Moose poster.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.