SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was pretty ugly. But James Paxton knows the games that count are still nearly four weeks away and his rough outing during the Mariners' 10-7 loss to the Rangers will be long forgotten by the time things get serious.Paxton gave up
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was pretty ugly. But James Paxton knows the games that count are still nearly four weeks away and his rough outing during the Mariners' 10-7 loss to the Rangers will be long forgotten by the time things get serious.
Paxton gave up seven runs on seven hits -- including home runs by Robinson Chirinos and Ryan Rua -- in just 1 2/3 innings in his second Cactus League start.
Paxton is expected to be one of the top left-handers in the American League this year and could be the Mariners' Opening Day starter, particularly if Felix Hernandez needs much time to return form his bruised forearm. He'll have four more starts this spring to find the mechanics and arm slot that sometimes are elusive for the lanky lefty in the early going.
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"That wasn't very fun," Paxton said. "It would be nice to come out here and have everything working right away, but that hasn't been the case. Luckily, we have some time here to figure it out before the bell rings. I'll get it figured out."
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Paxton struggled with his command against the Rangers, leaving too many pitches over the plate, and he fought to find his cutter. He said his fastball "isn't exploding out of my hand" the way it normally feels when he's in sync. But he noted that's part of the process of getting geared up.
"I've had some bad games in the past in the spring, for sure," Paxton said. "It's the cliche, it's Spring Training. It's getting ready to go here. This was my second time out, I'm figuring things out as I go and getting back into the swing of things. I'll figure it out because I always do."
For Paxton, one positive looms large as he moves forward.
"I'm healthy, so that's a plus for sure," the southpaw said. "No problems, my arm feels good. I'm just kind of getting things revved up."
Phelps impressive in return
The Mariners are counting on right-hander David Phelps being a big part of the back end of their bullpen this season, so his sharp 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout on Saturday in his first outing since September surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow was welcome news.
Phelps was acquired from the Marlins last July, but he pitched in only 10 games before the elbow issue sidelined him.
"I was really excited," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Phelps' debut. "I thought he had another gear on his fastball, a lot of life, getting through the zone and getting on hitters. It was better than I thought it would be, first time out."
• Left fielder Ben Gamel is awaiting results from an MRI test on his sore right side, but Servais expects the 25-year-old to be shut down for at least 4-5 days.
• Right fielder Mitch Haniger was cleared by a hand specialist, with Servais saying tests showed only some tendinitis in his sore right hand. Haniger started swinging off a tee on Saturday, hit some soft toss Sunday and will progress now to normal batting practice before getting into game action possibly later next week.
• Right-handed reliever Nick Rumbelow hasn't pitched since his debut on Feb. 24 when he came out of the game with a cut on his thumb. He's now dealing with some "shoulder discomfort," according to Servais, and awaiting results of MRI tests.
• Veteran reliever Nick Vincent, held back to protect a sore arm early in camp, threw a light bullpen on Saturday with no issues. He is tentatively scheduled to make his Cactus League debut Friday vs. the Giants.
Mike Ford, the Rule 5 Draft pickup who is fighting for a roster spot at first base, unloaded his first home run of the spring with a three-run shot off Jonathan Hernandez in the sixth inning to help the Mariners overcome their early seven-run deficit in the 10-7 win.
With Ryon Healy sidelined by hand surgery and uncertain if he'll be ready by Opening Day, Ford and Daniel Vogelbach are competing for that opening. Ford was just 2-for-15 with a double in his first seven games, but homered and walked in a late-inning appearance to put his average at .188.
"It's been a tough start for him," Servais said. "He's pressed a little, faced a lot of left-handed pitching. So it was nice to get him in there against the righties today."
Vogelbach went 1-for-3 with a single and walk and is hitting .417 (5-for-12) with a double and homer this spring.
The Mariners have their first off-day of the spring on Monday, but will return to Cactus League play Tuesday at 5:40 p.m. PT against the Rockies in the first of three straight night games in Peoria. Mike Leake is slated to throw four innings in his third spring start. Promising right-hander Art Warren will make his Cactus debut, and Casey Lawrence and Dan Altavilla are also scheduled for relief.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.