A return this week by left-hander James Paxton to the Seattle Mariners’ rotation looks increasingly unlikely after club officials chose not to have him throw a routine bullpen workout before Monday’s victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Paxton reported some “typical” triceps tightness after that 62-pitch outing Saturday in a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Tacoma. It marked his first game action since exiting an April 8 start against the Angels because of a strained back muscle.
“Just a little soreness still from upping the intensity,” he said. “It’d been a while since I’d been in a game.”
A best-case scenario called for Paxton to throw a bullpen workout Monday — standard procedure for pitchers two days after a start — and then replace struggling Brandon Maurer in the rotation Thursday against the Angels.
It now appears unlikely Paxton will complete that workout before Wednesday.
“We’re just waiting to see how I respond,” he said. “I’ll come in (Tuesday) and see how it feels. I’ll probably play catch, if anything.”
Said manager Lloyd McClendon: “I’m not sure what the next step is, but if there’s any soreness at all, I know we’ll be very cautious.”
Mariners starter Chris Young found motivation in the no-hitter by Los Angeles Dodgers veteran Josh Beckett on Sunday against Philadelphia.
“We had the same surgery last year,” said Young, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning in Monday’s 5-1 victory over the Angels. “I’m super excited for him to see that. It’s inspirational. It gives me hope that I can continue to make the most of my career as well.”
The surgery addresses thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve problem that puts pressure on a pitcher’s shoulder.
The search of lineup snap and balance prompted McClendon to move Mike Zunino up another notch for the series opener against Los Angeles.
Zunino had not batted higher than eighth before batting sixth in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Houston Astros. He had one of the Mariners’ four hits in a weak surrender against Dallas Keuchel and found himself batting fifth Monday.
“We’re trying to score some runs,” McClendon said. “Put him in an RBI situation, and see if he can click for us.”
It didn’t work. Zunino went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, though McClendon noted, “We won the game,”
McClendon previously said he was hesitant to shift either Zunino or Dustin Ackley from the bottom of the order after Ackley went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts last month in two starts as the No. 2 hitter.
“I’m still hesitant,” McClendon said, “but we’ve got to do something to try to balance things out a little bit. I’m trying to be proactive.”
The Mariners were averaging 4.10 runs a game, which ranked 11th among the 15 American League clubs and was more than one-quarter of a run less per game than the league average.
“We’re looking for balance,” McClendon said. “Obviously, we don’t have the perfect lineup right now, particularly when it comes to (facing) left-handers. We’re still searching for balance and trying to do the best we can.”
CANO’S HIT BARRAGE
Robinson Cano went 3-for-4 and has 65 hits through 50 games. Only two other infielders in Mariners history had more hits through the season’s first 50 games — although one of them, Alex Rodriguez, did it twice.
A-Rod had 68 hits in 1997 through 50 games, and had 67 the following year. Joey Cora had 66 in 1997. Next on the list after Cano is John Olerud with 63 in 2001.
It was 30 years ago Tuesday — May 27, 1984 — that the Mariners completed a remarkable three-game weekend sweep of the Detroit Tigers at the Kingdome with a 6-1 victory.
The Tigers entered the series at 35-5 and with a 17-game road winning streak, which remains an AL record.
The Mariners rolled to a 7-3 victory in the opener. Current Mariners hitting coach Howard Johnson had a two-run pinch single for the Tigers in the ninth.
A four-run first inning highlighted a 9-5 victory in the second game. Johnson went 2-for-4 with an RBI double.
Ken Phelps hit two homers for the Mariners in the third game. Johnson struck out as a pinch-hitter.
Those Tigers went on to finish 104-58 and win the World Series. The Mariners finished 74-88.
Cano was inadvertently spiked by Kole Calhoun on a force play at second base in the sixth inning. Cano remained in the game and doesn’t expect to miss any time. The Mariners’ three steals in the second inning matched their previous-best season total for an entire game. The Angels have 59 victories in the past 10 years at Safeco Field, the most by any club at a visiting park in that span. The Mariners are 18-16 against AL West opponents.
The Mariners and Angels continue their four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field. Rookie left-hander Roenis Elias (3-3, 3.68 ERA) will face Angels right-hander Jered Weaver (5-3, 2.85). Root Sports will carry the game.bob.dutton@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @TNT_Mariners