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Mariners LHP James Paxton
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Mariners Injuries: Outlook for LHP James Paxton ‘doesn’t look optimistic’

Mariners LHP James Paxton is on the 10-day IL after throwing 24 pitches in his 2021 debut. (Getty)

There was a lot of excitement and buzz around the Mariners on Tuesday as James Paxton made his return to Seattle after two years in New York. Unfortunately, Paxton’s outing didn’t last long.

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After two stellar spring training starts, Paxton took the hill against the Chicago White Sox in Seattle’s fifth game of the 2021 season. After striking out two in the first inning, Paxton left the game in the second inning with what was initially described as left elbow discomfort. After the game, Paxton said it was his forearm that was bugging him.

The Mariners placed Paxton on the 10-day injured list on Wednesday, and Nick Margevicius will take his spot in the six-man rotation for the time being.

On Thursday, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto provided an update on Paxton during his weekly visit on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant for The Jerry Dipoto Show. Simply put, things don’t sound too great in terms of Paxton’s availability going forward.

“We’re going to find out a little bit more I would say in the next 48 hours,” Dipoto said. “Obviously, not a good sign … Our expectation is this is not going to be a short stint on the IL. We’re just fingers crossed that it’s not anything long-term.”

(Note: Several MLB insiders reported Thursday afternoon that Paxton has received a recommendation to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. For more details, read the full story here.)

Dipoto described himself as “crushed” when he saw Paxton leaving the game, and part of that is because Paxton, who has a lengthy injury history, had a tremendous spring and worked very hard to get in great shape for the 2021 season.

“I said this to James (in spring training) … but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him better than I saw him in the outings down in (Arizona),” Dipoto said. “It was such a different spring training version of James with high velocity and command of his secondary pitches that you just don’t see from Pax … He worked so hard to get there, and he smiled and said, ‘I think I had something to prove.’ And I felt so badly for him when he walked off the mound against the White Sox because you could see he was in a high degree of discomfort when he walked off the mound.”

Not only is Paxton an elite pitcher when healthy, but he’s been a great leader for younger Mariners as well, Dipoto said.

“It was such an exciting thing when we brought him back to the Mariners and such a jolt of confidence for our young players to look at a guy with his kind of history in the league and know that we’re out there trying to get better every day,” he said.

For now, Dipoto and the Mariners have no update on Paxton’s status, though it appears they’re bracing for bad news.

“Unfortunately we’re going to have to wait and see how this plays out, but right now it certainly doesn’t look optimistic,” Dipoto said.

During his pre-game press conference on Thursday, manager Scott Servais told reporters that Paxton is getting a second opinion on his injury, per 710 ESPN Seattle Mariners insider Shannon Drayer.

Other injury updates

Paxton isn’t the only Mariners player currently injured. Three other players who are fighting to get back on the field are outfielders Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley as well as first baseman Evan White.

Dipoto has optimism that those three should be back sooner than later.

“None of them, I would say, are long-term concerns,” Dipoto said.

Fraley suffered a hamstring injury diving for a ball in left field in Tuesday’s game against the White Sox and went on the 10-day injured list at the same time as Paxton.

“It’s a grade-one (strain) and we think it’s closer to mild, to use a different word,” Dipoto said. “We think it’s going to be closer to two weeks and he’ll be back out on the field. But hamstrings can be tricky.”

White left Wednesday’s series finale with a quad injury while running out a fielder’s choice early in the game. Dipoto hopes that he just needs a few days off rather than a stint on the injured list.

“We’ll find out more today on Evan White,” he said. “We also think that is less than a long-term concern.”

Dipoto said White has a “tendency to have quad issues,” and that when this happens, White typically “needs a couple days off his feet and he bounces back.”

“Fingers crossed, hopefully that’s all this is,” Dipoto said.

Servais later told reporters that White isn’t expected to land on the injured list.

Unlike Paxton, Fraley and White, Lewis hasn’t played yet in 2021 due to a knee injury he suffered late in spring training. The reigning American League Rookie of the Year should be back in the Mariners’ lineup sooner rather than later, though.

“I think we’re going to see Kyle Lewis, if all stays on track, during our next homestand when we get back from this road trip, which is an encouraging thing,” Dipoto said. “We’ve missed his bat sitting in the middle of our lineup, for sure, and his presence. He does bring some energy and he’s one of those players where the other team just knows where they are all the time.”

The Mariners are starting their road trip Thursday afternoon against the Twins in Minnesota. After three games against the Twins, the Mariners head to Baltimore to take on the Orioles for four games before flying back to Seattle to face the Astros on Friday, April 16 for a quick five-game homestand.

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