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Inbox: What's next for Paxton to accomplish?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from Mariners fans
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

James Paxton clearly has taken his game to a different level. Do you think he can keep this up and be a legitimate -- and much-needed -- ace for the Mariners?
-- Billy L., Oak Harbor, Wash.

Paxton indeed is on a dominant run. But, frankly, he's done this before. People seem to forget he started out last season going 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 37 innings in six starts before straining his forearm. And when he got back in a groove after coming off the disabled list, he put together an overpowering July when he was 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings before straining his pec muscle in August.

James Paxton clearly has taken his game to a different level. Do you think he can keep this up and be a legitimate -- and much-needed -- ace for the Mariners?
-- Billy L., Oak Harbor, Wash.

Paxton indeed is on a dominant run. But, frankly, he's done this before. People seem to forget he started out last season going 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 37 innings in six starts before straining his forearm. And when he got back in a groove after coming off the disabled list, he put together an overpowering July when he was 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings before straining his pec muscle in August.

So while Paxton's current stretch of five games (2-0, 1.70 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 37 innings) includes a career-high 16 strikeout game and a no-hitter, it's not wildly out of line with what he was able to do last year. The key clearly is staying healthy, and Paxton has been good there so far this year. He has also become more efficient with his pitches and able to go deeper, thus his first two career complete games.

Video: Paxton tosses sixth no-hitter in Mariners history

But this is how good Paxton can be when he's locked in. He already was knocking on ace-level stature when healthy, and there's no reason to think he can't carry that out for a full season if the pieces stay together.

Since moving Dee Gordon back to second base, do you think we have a chance to see Ichiro Suzuki playing again this season?
-- Jesus O., Maracaibo, Venezuela

Ichiro will not be playing again with the Mariners this season. Per MLB rules and the agreement he and the Mariners made, he's not eligible to return to Seattle's roster in 2018. He could sign with another club this year, but Ichiro has indicated to the Mariners he does not want to do that.

With the Mariners being in contention a quarter of the way through the season, who do you see them going after to fill the void left by Robinson Cano?
-- Nathan D, Melbourne Australia

This seems to be the $12 million question, which is the amount of money the Mariners are saving from Cano's suspension without pay. General manager Jerry Dipoto is already inquiring with other teams about potential deals, and I have no doubt he'll bolster the roster for a playoff push, likely by adding both an outfielder and some pitching help.

With Gordon moving to second and Cano due back in mid-August, there's no need for infield help. But the outfield depth is thin now and I could see Dipoto acquiring a solid veteran like the Royals' Jon Jay, who is a guy they were interested in last winter before trading for Gordon and wouldn't cost a ton.

That would leave money to pursue pitching as well, which to me is a bigger need. The injury to setup man David Phelps has hurt the bullpen, and even with Paxton's success, the starting rotation's 4.55 ERA is 10th out of 15 teams in the AL.

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What role does Cano pose for the team in the playoffs?
-- Harlan G., Seattle, Wash.

Even though he can return from his suspension on Aug. 14, Cano won't be eligible to participate in the postseason this year. So that indeed raises a difficult situation. Gordon can move back to the outfield when Cano returns for the final six weeks, but he'd have to shift back to second in the playoffs.

What has the message to the team been concerning the news of Cano's suspension? It appears to have been the right one.
-- Mark C., Cavalier, N.D.

Pull together, keep playing hard and don't try to do too much individually to overcompensate for Cano's absence.

Can we please stop making such a big fuss about Paxton being from Canada? I get the maple leaf tattoo. But he was born and raised in Ladner, near Vancouver, in British Columbia. It's barely a two-hour drive from Safeco Field.
-- Ian D., Corvallis, Ore.

Sure, Paxton grew up close to Seattle. But it doesn't matter how close you are to a border, you still are a citizen of the country where you're born. He grew up in Canada and played for Team Canada as a junior player. I was in Toronto when Paxton threw his no-hitter, and his pride in being Canadian and accomplishing that feat in his home country was readily apparent. It was a cool deal for him. Not sure why that wouldn't be noteworthy, just as players from other countries take pride in their roots.

Which team does Tom Wilhelmsen play for this season?
-- Gordon P., Glasgow, Scotland

Wilhelmsen remains one of the most fascinating personalities I've ever covered and his unique path continues. The Bartender was released by the Padres during Spring Training and is now pitching independent league ball for the St. Paul Saints, making $1,800 a month, and seeing where life takes him at age 34.

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

Seattle Mariners, Dee Gordon, James Paxton, Ichiro Suzuki