The wait for an injury update on left-hander James Paxton, and its possible consequences, threatens to overshadow what the Mariners long envisioned as a weekend celebration of Edgar Martinez’s career.
That celebration began Friday morning when Martinez, the club’s hitting coach, raised a No. 11 flag atop the Space Needle and will continue Friday night with the promotional giveaway of 45,000 bobblehead dolls.
Martinez’s No. 11 will be retired Saturday in a pregame ceremony.
It should be, if nothing else, an upbeat counterpoint to Paxton’s injury, which threatens to derail the Mariners’ push to end a 15-year postseason drought.
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Paxton exited Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in the seventh inning because of what club officials later identified as a strained left pectoral muscle.
"I thought it was just a little cramp," he said, "and I’d be able to shake it out. But it just kept on (cramping)…Hopefully, it’s nothing serious. I’m hoping not to miss any time."
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam was planned Friday to determine the severity of the injury and, despite Paxton’s optimism, the Mariners are bracing for the worst.
All clubs tend to be cautious in any initial diagnosis. That the Mariners didn’t characterize Paxton’s problem as discomfort (or something similar) is worrisome. Calling it a strain indicates a belief the muscle is overstretched or torn.
Even a grade 1 strain (the mildest) could require time on the disabled list at a time when the Mariners are already patching together a rotation plagued by injuries and poor performance.
The Mariners entered Friday at 59-57 and tied with Tampa Bay for the lead in the race for the American League’s final wild-card berth. Minnesota, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Baltimore are each within 1 1/2 games of the Mariners and Rays.
"We’ll know more on that (Friday)," manager Scott Servais said, "but it hurts. He’s been our guy. He’s been awesome. I don’t want to get too far ahead of it. Hopefully, fingers crossed, he isn’t going to miss too much time."
Any amount of time is too much.
***Lefty Marco Gonzales (0-0 with an 11.25 ERA) makes his second start since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma when the four-game series against the Angels continues at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field. The Angels are starting right-hander Ricky Nolasco (5-12, 5.09). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***The Mariners acquired Gonzales from St. Louis in a July 21 trade for outfielder Tyler O’Neill. Gonzales won two starts at Tacoma prior to his Aug. 5 recall. He gave up five runs in four-plus innings on Aug. 6 in a no-decision at Kansas City.
***Nolasco, 34, was the Angels’ starter in opening day. He is 2-4 with a 3.88 ERA in eight career starts against the Mariners but is 1-0 this season in three starts while allowing just six earned runs in 19 1/3 innings.
***Nelson Cruz is 8-for-22 with three homers in his career against Nolasco. Robinson Cano is 7-for-21 with three homers. Yonder Alonso is 6-for-24, but Danny Espinosa is hitless in 17 career at-bats.
***Cruz has five home runs in his last five games and seven home runs in his last 10 games. He leads the American League with 90 RBIs.
***The Angels are 9-4 in their last 13 games.
***Mike Trout is batting .367 (33-for-90) in 24 games since returning from a 10-week absence while recovering from surgery to repair ulnar collateral ligament tear in his left thumb. He has seven homers and 19 RBIs in that span.
***Albert Pujols is batting .292 against the Mariners and .219 against everybody else.
***Guillermo Heredia had two doubles and a walk Thursday in four plate appearances, which raised his average to .279. He is batting .333 (17-for-51) over his last 17 games.
***Yonder Alonso is 1-for-10 with three strikeouts since joining the Mariners on Sunday in a trade that sent outfielder Boog Powell to Oakland.
It was 23 years ago Friday — Aug. 11, 1994 — that Mariners lefty Randy Johnson struck out Ernie Young with the final pitch thrown in the season. It was Johnson’s 15th strikeout and capped a 4-1 victory at Oakland.
The players went on strike the following day, which subsequently forced the cancellation of the remainder of the season. A new labor agreement wasn’t reached until April 2, 1995.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners