Paxton was placed on the 10-day disabled list. Right-hander Andrew Moore was recalled to take his place.
James Paxton awoke Friday morning and was hopeful.
The pain he felt in his left pectoral muscle that forced him out of Thursday night’s start in the seventh inning wasn’t quite as significant. Perhaps he’d been right in his personal postgame diagnosis after the Mariners’ heartbreaking 6-3 loss that his injury wasn’t too serious and he’d be able to make his next scheduled start.
But a MRI later that morning and an examination by team physician Dr. Edward Khalfayan leveled Paxton’s optimism and may have crushed the Mariners postseason hopes just as they were starting to look promising. Seattle’s stalwart lefty was placed on the 10-day disabled with a strained pectoral muscle. The early estimate is that the DL stint won’t be short.
“It could be three weeks,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Obviously, It’s disheartening news. No doubt. It’s been a crazy season. It really has been with all the injuries. To put ourselves in the position we’re in right now, a lot of it has had to do with James Paxton. There’s no doubt. He’s been really, really good.
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The diagnosis stunned Paxton and the Mariners.
“It’s obviously not what we wanted,” he said. “Not what I was expecting. I felt pretty good when I woke up this morning so to hear that it’s a strain and it’s going to be a few weeks was frustrating. But we’re going to see how it responds here and just try to get back as soon as possible and try to stay positive and do everything I can to get back on the mound as soon as I can.”
Paxton couldn’t hide his disappointment or frustration. He loathes being stereotyped as the guy who always gets hurt. And he can’t figure out how or why he strained the pectoral. It’s something he’s never dealt with in his career.
“I was talking to the doctor this morning, Khalfayan, he said it was a very rare injury to see in pitchers,” Paxton said. “I feel like I’ve had enough of those. But just another rare injury that is pretty uncommon with pitchers. He said that’s what we’re dealing with, and we’ll just have to treat it as we go and do the best we can with it.”
He wasn’t certain on the recovery plan for that kind of injury or if the estimated time out of three weeks means he would be back pitching games after that.
“We just have to see how it responds in the next few days,” he said. “Going to see the doctor again in a few days and reevaluate again.”
Paxton was in the midst of a breakout season. Prior to last night’s start, he had won seven in a row. He’s 12-3 with a 2.78 ERA in 20 starts this season. In 119 2/3 innings pitched, he’s struck out 138 batters. He had entered the American League Cy Young conversation.
The disappointment of the injury was obvious as he talked to the media and interacted with teammates. But he vowed not to let it make him disheartened.
“It doesn’t help me at all,” he said. “It doesn’t help the team at all for me to be like that. It’s not going to make me better, faster if I go that route. So I have to just stay positive. My role now is to get healthy and do everything I can every day to get healthy and get back on that mound. I want to be out there helping this team get to where we want to be in the postseason.”
The Mariners recalled pitcher Andrew Moore to take his place on the roster. Moore, who made six starts with Seattle and posted a 1-3 record and 5.65 ERA, will pitch out of the bullpen for the next few days. The Mariners relief corp has been used heavily in the past week. If he isn’t needed, there is a chance that Moore could slide into Paxton’s rotation spot. But the Mariners have other candidates in Tacoma and are obviously looking outside the organization with an every greater motivation than before.
“We have to find a way to keep it rolling here,” Servais said. ” You can look at it as a challenge or look at it as a threat. We’ll take the challenge. It’s going to be a challenge. There’s no doubt. But we’ll put a plan together and figure out how we can keep things afloat until we get him back.”
For the second time this season, the current Mariners rotation consists of just of the pitchers that were projected to start the season — Yovani Gallardo — with Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly on the disabled list. the first time occurred in May. The current unit of Gallardo, lefties Marco Gonzales and Ariel Miranda and Erasmo Ramirez and whoever they decide to fill out the final spot. That’s not exactly ideal.
“One thing about our team is they really pull together,” Servais said. “I think you’ve seen it in the way we’ve played when things look their darkest and gloomiest. We usually and really compete well. That’s happened since I’ve been here.”
Asked if he had any good news to report before Friday’s game, Servais responded with a little intensity and emotion.
“Yeah, we’re tied for the second wild card. OK?” he said. “When we were here and the sky was falling in May and everybody said no way, we’re here. OK? We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. We know that. It’s not going to be easy. It never is. Any team that gets in the playoffs or gets deep in the playoffs or wins it all, you’re going to face some adversity. That’s the good news: We’re tied for the wild card spot today.”