KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With the season winding down and starting pitchers beginning to reach their thresholds for innings pitched, the Seattle Mariners decided to shift to a six-man pitching rotation in hopes of cutting back the workload of some pitchers.
Talented prospect James Paxton was one of five players officially called up from Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday as the rosters were expanded. Paxton will be the sixth pitcher added to the rotation. He will make his major league debut Saturday at Safeco Field against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It allows us to have some options and flexibility, which is a good thing this time of year,” manager Eric Wedge said.
It’s been an eventful three days for Paxton, who joined the team in Kansas City on Monday.
Paxton pitched two innings of relief Sunday for Tacoma, then was pulled by pitching coach Terry Clark.
“I was little bit surprised,” Paxton said.
Clark then told him to talk to Rainiers manager John Stearns.
“He said Stearns had something to tell me,” Paxton said. “(Stearns) told me in the dugout and I was able to give everyone hugs.”
But it got even better for the British Columbia native.
“It turned out that my parents were actually at the game,” he said. “They drove down to watch me pitch that day. I was able to call my dad down and I told him in the locker room. After the game, we were all able to go out and eat and celebrate. It was very cool to have them there and share that experience with them.”
Paxton posted an 8-11 record with 4.45 ERA in 28 appearances (26 starts) with the Rainiers. He struck out 131 batters, averaging 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
“It’s been an up and down season for me,” he said. “At the beginning of the year I struggled a little bit, learning the league. I got to know the batters better and got more confidence and rattled off some good outings. Then I had a couple rough ones, and then I feel like I finished pretty strong in that last little bit. I’m coming in feeling pretty good about my stuff and where I’m at.”
The good outings included a shutout in Tucson on July 8. In his last start with Tacoma, he pitched eight innings, giving up one unearned run on five hits and striking out seven.
Paxton is far from a finished product. His command with his fastball and his trust in his secondary pitches must continue to improve for him to figure into the starting-rotation plans for 2014.
Wedge said he hopes the two or three starts Paxton makes for the Mariners will speed his development.
“It’s great to get those ‘firsts’ out of the way,” Wedge said. “He has worked hard to get here and deserves to be here.”
Besides Paxton, pitchers Erasmo Ramirez, Hector Noesi and Chance Ruffin and infielder Carlos Triunfel were recalled from Tacoma.
Pitcher Danny Hultzen made his first game appearance since June 27 on Sunday at Cheney Stadium, throwing two scoreless innings with three strikeouts for the Rainiers. Hultzen, who is recovering from a second strain of his rotator cuff, will continue to keep building arm strength as he prepares to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, which begins in October.
He has a busy schedule the next week. He will throw a bullpen session Wednesday in Everett. He will throw a simulated game Saturday at Safeco Field or in Everett – depending on how the Aqua Sox do in the playoffs. That will be followed by another bullpen session, then four or five days off before reporting back to Arizona to continue his throwing regimen and participate in the fall league.
After the second problem arose with his rotator cuff, the Mariners decided to re-evaluate Hultzen’s mechanics and throwing regimen to see if there was an issue. They found he was throwing across his body with his plant foot not opening enough toward home plate. They’ve corrected the issue and the results have been positive.
“This really put his arm slot in its strongest position and made it more repeatable for him to do that,” pitching coach Carl Willis said. “That takes strain off the shoulder. ... The consistency of his arm slot is important.”
Taijuan Walker (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his second big league start for the Mariners on Wednesday against Royals right-hander Ervin Santana (8-8, 3.19). First pitch is set for 5:10 p.m.Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish