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Paxton gets just four outs in return from DL

Mechanical issues, rust get to lefty in a loss to the Astros
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

HOUSTON -- Turns out, the challenge of coming off a five-week stint on the disabled list without benefit of a rehab start isn't such an easy thing, as James Paxton and the Mariners were reminded Friday night in a 5-2 loss to the Astros.

Pitching for the first time since straining his left pectoral muscle on Aug. 10, the big left-hander got tagged for three runs on four hits with two walks and two wild pitches in just 1 1/3 innings as he fell to 12-4 with a 2.98 ERA.

Full Game Coverage

HOUSTON -- Turns out, the challenge of coming off a five-week stint on the disabled list without benefit of a rehab start isn't such an easy thing, as James Paxton and the Mariners were reminded Friday night in a 5-2 loss to the Astros.

Pitching for the first time since straining his left pectoral muscle on Aug. 10, the big left-hander got tagged for three runs on four hits with two walks and two wild pitches in just 1 1/3 innings as he fell to 12-4 with a 2.98 ERA.

Full Game Coverage

"Health-wise I'm fine," Paxton said after spending time with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. in the film room postgame. "Nothing is hurting, so that's good news. Unfortunately, I was just out of whack on the mound. I was just watching some video and my front side was going early, so I just had nothing to throw against.

"It felt like I went to throw the ball and there was nothing there. But luckily we caught it early and I think it's something we can fix in the bullpen and get back out there and get back to what we were doing."

Paxton couldn't duplicate teammate Felix Hernandez's successful return a night earlier when Hernandez came off the DL to throw 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 10-4 victory over the Rangers. Instead, Paxton struggled to find his normal velocity, registering 91-93 mph with his fastball, and continually spiked his curveball in the dirt.

"It's all mechanical," manager Scott Servais said. "His arm felt fine, there's no issues there. His work between starts, there was a little more hop on the ball and it was coming out better. But you put a hitter in there when you haven't been out there for a month, it's not as easy as it looks, and I think we saw that tonight."

Going up against the American League's top offensive team just increased the degree of difficulty. Paxton had allowed just one run in 20 innings in three previous starts against the Astros this year, but gave up three runs in a 37-pitch first inning and was lifted after a one-out double in the second.

Servais had hoped to get three or four innings from his standout southpaw and continue building him up for another two or three starts over the final 14 games of the season. That plan continues, though much will depend now on how quickly Paxton can regain his form.

"What Felix gave us last night was better than expected, tonight was a little less," Servais said. "But we did get 50 pitches out of Pax so we'll build on that and get it him back out there again his next turn. We'll need him. He's been a big part of our season so far, but tonight he just couldn't get any rhythm."

With no Minor League rehab outings to fine tune things, Paxton was relying solely on a couple bullpen sessions and then a two-inning simulated game situation against a couple teammates. That approach worked for Hernandez, but the long-limbed Paxton obviously had a harder time dialing back up his normal delivery.

"Things change with intensity," he said. "The adrenaline that comes with it, the timing is different than throwing a sim game or bullpens. But we're going to try to ramp it up in the bullpen and get a better feel for it. And there are some drills we can do to try to lock me back in. As soon as we do that, I think we can get back to where I need to be."

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Seattle Mariners, James Paxton