As the Seattle Mariners approached the end of spring training, their starting rotation was set to be made up of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo.
That was a long time ago.
Paxton, who has been hands-down Seattle’s best starter this season and at times one of the best in all of the majors, hit the disabled list on Friday with a left pectoral muscle strain that is expected to keep him out three weeks during a particularly heated playoff race. The really bad news is that Paxton joins Hernandez, Iwakuma and Smyly on the DL, leaving only Gallardo among the original starting five still in action.
“No doubt, it’s been a crazy season. Really has with all the injuries,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said after sharing the news of Paxton’s injury with the press on Friday afternoon.
Without Paxton, the Mariners suddenly find themselves with no members in their rotation that can reasonably be expected to throw a quality start each time out. It has also happened at a time when the Mariners are locked in a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot to the playoffs from the American League.
“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,” Servais said. “We can look at it as a challenge or look at it as a threat. We’ll take the challenge.
“It’s gonna be a challenge.”
Paxton has been the Mariners’ ace in 2017, owning a 12-3 record, 2.78 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 20 starts. He’s also had a pair of stellar runs of success, opening the year with 23 straight scoreless innings then earning the win in seven straight starts before taking a no-decision in Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Angels. In between that was a DL stint for a forearm strain that cost him nearly a month in May and a rough patch in which he posted a 7.20 ERA for the month of June.
Servais didn’t have an immediate replacement for Paxton’s spot in the rotation, which comes up next on Tuesday, but Andrew Moore was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to take his roster spot and be an extra arm in the bullpen. Servais said the Mariners will look at their options internally to see what could match up for Tuesday’s start, but don’t be surprised if general manager Jerry Dipoto pulls off a move for a pitcher that is either on waivers or has cleared waivers before then. To that end, Dipoto reportedly added Triple-A left-hander Andrew Albers from the Braves for cash considerations late Friday afternoon, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
In the meantime, Servais said his team will deal with the latest injury to a key player in stride.
“We’re tied for the second wild-card spot,” Servais responded when asked if he had any good news Friday. “And when we were here and the sky was falling in May and everybody said ‘No way’ – we’re here. We got a lot of work ahead of us, we know that. It’s not easy. It never is. Any team that gets into the playoffs or gets deep in the playoffs or wins it all, you’re gonna face some adversity. So that’s the good news: we’re tied for the wild-card spot today.”
• Mitch Haniger could start a rehab assignment as soon as this weekend. He has been out since taking a pitch off his face on July 29 but took batting practice on Thursday.
• In case you missed it, Dipoto told Danny, Dave and Moore on Thursday that Hernandez is likely to return in September from shoulder bursitis while Iwakuma might return before the end of the season from his own shoulder woes. You can read more at this link.