SEATTLE —A day later, Mariners left-hander James Paxton still feels good about his first rehabilitation outing at Triple-A Tacoma, even if he’s feeling a little tightness in his triceps.
But both Paxton and manager Lloyd McClendon called that “normal” for a pitcher making his first start in a game since April 8, which is what Paxton did Saturday by throwing 62 pitches in a three-inning outing for the Rainiers.
“It’s pretty typical. You expect a little bit of soreness coming back after something like this,” Paxton said prior to Seattle’s game Sunday against the Houston Astros. “I think it’s pretty normal.”
It doesn’t appear any decision has yet been made about when — or where — Paxton might pitch next. Brandon Maurer’s rocky season — augmented by his rough start on Saturday — has led to speculation that he might be the most viable candidate to be sent down once Paxton is ready to return to the rotation, but McClendon said they won’t know what Paxton’s next step will be until after he throws his next bullpen, likely on Monday.
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Maurer is 1-3 with a 6.99 ERA in six starts with the Mariners this season, and allowed six hits, six runs and two home runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Astros on Saturday.
McClendon met with Maurer in his office prior to Sunday’s game. Asked about that conversation, McClendon responded: “My conversation with Brandon was private.”
If the Mariners do want to make a move sooner rather than later, Paxton’s pitching schedule would allow him to slide into Maurer’s spot in the rotation without adjustment. But Paxton said he “would understand completely” if he’s asked to make another rehab start or two before returning to the big leagues.
Before he does that, Paxton said, he needs to do a “little bit of refining. I was trying to find my timing yesterday. I feel like it was a good step forward, but still a few things I need to smooth out a little bit. I don’t think it’s a very big jump to where I need to be.”
Paxton struck out five batters, walked two and allowed three runs in three innings in Tacoma on Saturday. It was the first time he’d pitched to opposing batters since straining a muscle in his back against the Angels on April 8.
It was a little different than the simulated game he threw last week.
“It was definitely a different feeling than facing your own guys,” Paxton said. “It was good to get out there and face some guys with different jerseys on and kind of get those competitive juices flowing again.”