Mariners option James Paxton, Chris Taylor, Stefen Romero to Triple-A Tacoma
PEORIA, Ariz. – With three roster moves Monday, three position battles came to an end.
There was little suspense over the right-handed first-base position or the utility infield spot with Stefen Romero and Chris Taylor being optioned to Tacoma, but there was perhaps a little surprise that the decision was made on the fifth starter before Nathan Karns took the mound Monday in Peoria. Karns will face the Royals knowing he is in the Mariners’ rotation as James Paxton was told he would continue to get his work in Triple-A.
“It’s about getting the player in the right spot when the season starts,” manager Scott Servais said after announcing the move. “Let’s go. Let’s move ahead with this thing. Let’s get him going and get him in a good spot mentally. He has not had a great spring, he will be the first to admit. I thought his stuff yesterday in the first inning, he was getting after it; just didn’t get the result and this is a result-driven league.”
For Paxton, the frustration has been apparent at times. After committing to and putting in a full offseason of work – pitching in fall ball and working to drop weight and get in better shape, for which Servais commended him – the spring did not go according to plan.
“Not happy,” he said shortly after his meeting with Servais and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. “Obviously, not where I want to be, but the fault is all on me. I didn’t have the best spring results-wise. Didn’t do what they wanted to see, so I am going to go down and work on some stuff and I will be back.”
While the stuff appeared to be there at times, the consistency was not. He fell behind in far too many counts and struggled to get the ball down when he needed to. In 15 innings pitched in Cactus League games, Paxton walked eight while striking out just six.
“That’s what it is all about is consistency,” he said. “I have to be able to bring it up like that every game or close to it and know how to pitch when I don’t have it perfect, when it is all not going exactly as I wanted to. So that is what I am going to go down and work on, finding that consistency and get back out here.”
Being able to get out of situations, find a way to battle through days when he doesn’t have it is what Mariners officials hoped to see from Paxton and didn’t. While Karns has not had the greatest spring in terms of numbers, his ability to compete is one factor that put him ahead when decisions had to be made.
“You have to trust your eyes at some point,” Servais said. “You have to look at track record and how guys go about getting through lineups, their ability to compete, their ability to hang in there when they don’t have their best stuff and what does it look like when they do have their best stuff. They are tough decisions to make.”
The stuff with Paxton has never been in question. With a choice of arms to go with, however, the Mariners can go with the one that looks more ready. Their hope is Paxton will get there quickly.
“We all know that James Paxton is going to be a big part of our team at some point this season,” Servais said. “He’s had track record of having very good outings at the big-league level and we are going to need him.”
Two other players the Mariners could need this year are Romero and Taylor. The two had completely opposite springs in terms of results but both end up in the same place.
Romero showed versatility in the field as well as better defense than expected at first base and did some good things with the bat. Servais said he would play multiple positions in Tacoma and called him a viable option if there was a need for a right-handed bat at first base or in the outfield.
After a disappointing spring, Taylor will play primarily shortstop in Tacoma but also get time at second, third and perhaps some work in left field and at first base as well.
“I think he put a lot of pressure on himself early then he tried to relax and just go play, and that didn’t work out so good either,” Servais said. “It happens. I was hoping he was a guy that was really going to thrive in the environment and the looseness that we have tried to create here. It just didn’t happen for him. I still believe he is a good player. We did not see the best of Chris Taylor. I know he is better than he has played. But again for him, more than any player we have sent down, he needs to get his confidence back.”
With the moves, the Mariners’ spring training roster is now at 33.