Mariners’ James Paxton sheds pounds but will have to battle for a rotation spot

Jan 30, 2016, 5:33 PM | Updated: Feb 1, 2016, 11:35 am
Mariners left-hander James Paxton, who was limited by injuries to just 13 MLB starts in each of the last two seasons, lost 20 pounds this offseason. (AP)
(AP)

Coming off an injury-plagued season for the second year in a row and with no clear spot in the Mariners’ starting rotation for him, James Paxton may be the player with the most to prove on Seattle’s roster heading into spring training.

If proving himself is what the Mariners want him to do, the 6-foot-4 southpaw is off to a good start, having shed roughly 20 pounds this offseason to get down to 220.

“I just added in some more agility stuff before my workouts and ate a little bit less of the same food that I was eating, and it worked,” Paxton said at Mariners FanFest on Saturday, adding that the weight loss was by design. “The trainers and Rick (Griffin) had talked to me about losing 10 pounds or so, and I did a little bit more than that. I’m feeling really good.”

The 27-year-old British Columbia native expects his lighter frame to benefit him in more ways than one when it’s game time.

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“Just allows me to be quicker, especially getting off the mound and fielding the position – that’s going to be a lot easier on me,” he said. “And just moving in general, controlling my body through space when I’m pitching I think will be easier for me to do also.”

The new Paxton became apparent a few months ago to fellow Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush, who has been working out with him throughout the offseason in Seattle while rehabbing his own shoulder injury.

“Probably right around the beginning of December I was like, ‘You’re looking thin.’ Not rail-thin, but he’s looking good, looking healthy and looking strong,” Furbush said. “That’s more important than anything. He’s moving around great and everything’s going good on his end with the finger and his arm feels great and he’s throwing that hard fastball down on the shins.”

The hope is that the new-look Paxton will also find a way to avoid injuries in 2016 after making just 13 MLB starts in each of the past two years. A strained tendon and fingernail issue on his left middle finger halted him last season, and despite beginning the 2015 campaign as the Mariners’ second starter, he’ll find himself the dark horse in a three-man battle with Taijuan Walker and Nate Karns for the final two rotation spots in spring training.

Paxton – who has a career 12-8 record, 3.16 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 30 starts – knows how important this year is for his future after the way the last two played out.

“I think it’s very important,” he said. “I think it’s time for me to show I can last an entire season and not have any of these weird injuries anymore, knock on wood.”

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