SEATTLE — A day that started with Mariners left-hander James Paxton hoping to avoid time on the disabled list concluded Wednesday with him hoping that he’s ready to return after the 15-day minimum stay.
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam confirmed Paxton suffered a strained back muscle — officially, a strained left latissimus dorsi muscle — in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over the Angels.
That prompted the Mariners to place Paxton on the disabled list.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I was feeling good out there. It’s not the ideal situation. I’m just going to deal with it and get ready to go.”
The Mariners recalled lefty reliever Lucas Luetge from Triple-A Tacoma to replace Paxton on the roster. Veteran right-hander Chris Young will start Sunday against Oakland in Paxton’s place.
Paxton, 25, characterized the injury as a tweak Tuesday after exiting in the sixth inning. Wednesday, he continued to emphasize that, overall, he feels pretty good.
“I wasn’t sore this morning,” he said. “I wasn’t hurting. My strength was really good. I was feeling pretty good about it (going into the exam). We just want to be careful about it right now.
“Right now, (the injury requires) just some rest. Then I’ll talk with the trainers and figure out our plan. I’m just trying to stay positive and get in the training room, work hard with those guys and get back as fast as I can.”
Paxton won his two starts this season and is 5-0 with a 1.75 earned-run average in six career starts. He is the third member of the club’s projected rotation sidelined by an injury.
Right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker opened the season on the disabled list, but each appears positioned to return before the end of the month.
Iwakuma threw from a mound Wednesday for the first time since being diagnosed in early February with a strained ligament in his middle finger.
Walker struck out 10 while pitching five scoreless innings for Double-A Jackson in his second minor league rehab start after a sore shoulder forced a one-week shutdown in early March.
“I feel like I’m ready now,” he said, “but that’s not up to me. My arm has been feeling really good. Right now, it’s in their hands. I can’t really control that. So I’m just going to keep pitching until they call me up.”
Barring a setback, Walker could be ready to rejoin the rotation next week.
Luetge, 27, compiled a 3.52 ERA in 98 big league appearances over the last two years but opened this season at Tacoma, where he made one appearance before his recall.
IWAKUMA ON MOUND
Iwakuma threw 34 “pain-free” pitches — mostly fastballs — from a bullpen mound prior to batting practice, which marked the next step in his recovery.
“When you’re on the mound,” he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki, “you have that elevation, and you have the catcher sitting down. It’s a different feel than (throwing on) flat ground.”
Iwakuma said plans call for him to throw another bullpen workout prior to Saturday’s game against the A’s.
“I’ll be getting my pitch count up and building up my arm strength,” he said. “Maybe I’ll add the slider in the next bullpen. So, hopefully, I’ll be throwing fastball, curveball and slider. And progress from there.
Iwakuma continued to parry questions regarding his possible return to the rotation.
“Obviously, I want to come back as soon as possible,” he said, “but I don’t want to rush anything. I’m taking it one day at a time. It’s up to the trainers, and what they see; the pitching coaches, and what they see.
“Hopefully, from my standpoint, it will be soon, but I leave that up to them.”
HAMILTON HEADED FOR SURGERY
Paxton wasn’t the only casualty in Tuesday’s game. Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is headed for surgery after suffering a torn ligament in his left thumb on a slide a first base in the seventh inning.
Hamilton is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. He was the American League’s co-player of the week for period ending April 6 and was batting .444 (12 for 27) with two homers and six RBIs in eight games.
The Angels placed him on the disabled list and recalled J.B. Shuck from Triple-A Salt Lake City.
It was just a year ago Thursday — April 10, 2013 — that the Mariners set a record for the lowest attendance in the history at Safeco Field when only 10,496 attended an 8-3 loss to Houston.
That broke the record set the previous day when 10,765 attended a 16-9 loss to the Astros. The April 10 record lasted just 19 days: a crowd of 9,818 on April 29 watched a 6-2 victory over Baltimore.
That April 29 crowd is now the second-smallest in Safeco history. The current record is 9,808 on Sept. 9, 2013 for a 6-4 loss to…yes, Houston.
The Mariners have their second open date in four days Thursday before starting a three-game weekend series against Oakland at Safeco Field. The A’s won two of three when the clubs played last weekend in Oakland.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (2-0 with a 1.88 ERA) will start the series opener at 7:10 p.m. Friday against Oakland lefty Tommy Milone (making his 2014 debut).
The game, which will be shown on Roots Sports, offers an expanded “King’s Court” promotion to include the entire ballpark — and thus renamed as “Supreme Court.”
The first 25,000 fans get a T-shirt and commemorative K card. Special ticket prices are also in effect: $12 for all View Level seats, and $25 for select Main Level, Terrace Club and Outfield Reserved seats.