SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners notebook: James Paxton helping in more ways than one

Apr 16, 2017, 12:53 PM | Updated: 1:30 pm
James Paxton has gone seven and eight innings in his last two starts. (AP)...
James Paxton has gone seven and eight innings in his last two starts. (AP)
(AP)

As Week 2 comes to a close, the Mariners find themselves near the top of the category in which they had the most question marks coming into the season: starting pitching. Heading into Sunday, Mariners starters combined for a 2.75 ERA, second best in baseball, behind only the Royals’ 2.50 ERA.

Servais: M’s getting back ‘to what we do’

James Paxton, of course, has made a hefty contribution to that number with his club record-breaking streak of 21 scoreless innings to start the season, but we have seen strong performances nearly every night a Mariners starter has taken the hill.  The group has allowed two or fewer runs in eight of the 12 starts so far this season. Paxton remains the early-season star of the rotation, with perhaps one of his best contributions over the past week being the innings he’s compiled. With a struggling bullpen, Paxton has gone seven and eight innings in his last two starts, respectively. Combine that with Felix putting together seven innings of his own, and the pair has helped take some weight off a ‘pen that is still finding its way. The decision to send Paxton out for the eighth inning Saturday night against the Rangers was an easy call, according to bench coach Tim Bogar.

“He was still strong. He was in the upper 90’s when he started that inning,” he pointed out. “I think Pax after 90 pitches is still one of our best pitches. I think that was one of our conversations, he’s going to go out there and compete.”

Bogar believes we are seeing a very different version of James Paxton than the one who rejoined the big-league team last June. While new mechanics had increased Paxton’s velocity, there was still much to be figured out, both in his pitching and mindset.

“You could see he was feeling his way through things, and beginning to understand what he could do,” Bogar said. “This year the confidence level I see is 10 times higher. Yesterday, he walks the leadoff batter but then comes back with the double play. You can just see him grow: his chest gets bigger, and he’s just really confident. The ability to know that he can be here, be a dominant pitcher and win every time out.”

And that, he has done.

Notebook:

– Relief pitcher Steve Cishek has progressed from throwing in extended spring games in Arizona to being ready to see game action. He will be sent out on a rehab start, starting with the Double-A club in Arkansas. He is expected to get three to four outings before returning. If all continues to go well, he should join the team sometime on the upcoming road trip.

– Ichiro returns to Safeco Field with the Marlins for a three game series that begins Monday. While the 17-year veteran now plays a bench role and has only had a handful of at-bats this season, since the Marlins are coming into the American League park it is likely he will get at least a couple of starts with Giancarlo Stanton sliding into the DH role.

-Pitching matchups for the series against the Marlins:

Monday: LH Ariel Miranda vs RH Tom Koehler
Tuesday: RH Yovani Gallardo vs LH Wei-Yin Chen
Wednesday: RH Felix Hernandez vs RH Edinson Volquez

Date Starting Pitcher
Saturday, October 1 @ 1:10 pm

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Mariners notebook: James Paxton helping in more ways than one