SEATTLE — The news Saturday on Seattle Mariners’ lefty James Paxton wasn’t particularly good. Two weeks of no throwing. A complete shutdown. And then a reevaluation.
Paxton was diagnosed Friday with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his pitching hand after leaving Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Cleveland in the fifth inning.
“I’m trying to stay positive,” Paxton said. “I’ve just got to do my best to let it rest and get back as soon as possible.”
As soon as possible likely doesn’t mean soon.
Even assuming Paxton is able to begin throwing in two weeks — the absolute best-case scenario — he would likely require another two-to-three weeks, minimum, before he is able to rejoin the rotation.
The Mariners are already dealing with an injury to right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who isn’t expected back from a strained back muscle until after the All-Star break.
Paxton is 3-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 10 starts but brought a 20-inning scoreless streak into Thursday’s game against the Indians. He was also 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA over his five previous starts.
Montgomery, 25, seems the likelier choice, He is 4-3 with a 3.74 ERA in nine starts for the Rainiers. Acquired March 31 from Tampa Bay, he is on the 40-man roster but has never pitched in the big leagues.
The Mariners have, tentatively anyway, pulled Montgomery from his scheduled start Sunday at Tacoma, which now lists James Gillheeney as its starter.
Germano, 32, is a nine-year veteran with seven clubs whom the Mariners signed last December to a minor-league deal. He is 3-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 12 games at Tacoma, including six starts.
Promoting Germano would require the Mariners to make a corresponding space-clearing move on their 40-man roster.
CANO BACK IN LINEUP
Robinson Cano was back at second base Saturday after a two-game absence because of an ear infection.
The Mariners are also hoping for a healthier Cano at the plate and, on cue, he delivered a two-run homer in the third inning. That ended a drought of 171 plate appearances since his last one.
Cano also went 171 plate appearances from April 21-June 8, 2006 while playing for the New York Yankees.
Before Saturday, Cano had just .220 over his last 30 games with a .268 on-base percentage and a .254 slugging percentage. He had only four extra-base hits in that span, all doubles, and seven RBIs.
Lefty reliever Joe Beimel returned to active duty after a one-day absence to attend his son’s graduation from high school in Torrance, Calif. Technically, the Mariners reinstated him from the restricted list.
The Mariners cleared space for Beimel by returning lefty reliever Lucas Luetge to Triple-A Tacoma on optional waivers — a process required when optioning a player who made his big-league debut more than three years earlier.
TAYLOR SITS AGAIN
Shortstop Chris Taylor’s roster status is looking increasingly dicey after he wasn’t in the lineup for the third time in four games. Brad Miller started again at shortstop.
Taylor is batting just .161 (through Friday) in 19 games since his May 4 promotion from Tacoma. He has just two extra-base hits and one RBI in 62 at-bats.
The Mariners are expected to clear space Tuesday for a starting pitcher on their 25-man active roster by cutting a position player. Taylor is the only likely candidate who has options remaining.
GROWING `K’ COUNT
The Mariners avoided a dubious franchise first Saturday when they didn’t strike out 10 or more times against Cleveland starter Shaun Marcum.
They had matched a franchise record by reaching double figures against each of the three previous opposing starters. (Marcum finished with five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.)
The three-game K-athon started Wednesday at Tampa Bay when Chris Archer struck our 12 in eight innings.
It continued in the first two games against Cleveland. Corey Kluber struck out 13 on Thursday in seven innings; and Trevor Bauer struck out 10 on Friday in seven innings. The Mariners still won two of the three games.
The only other time in club history when the Mariners whiffed 10 or more times in three successive games against an opposing starter was April 17-19, 2013 in two home games against Detroit and a road opener at Texas.
Max Scherzer struck out 12 in eight innings, then Justin Verlander struck out 12 in seven innings. Texas’ Yu Darvish capped the streak with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. The Mariners were 1-2 in those games.
Overall, the Mariners, through Friday, ranked fifth in strikeouts among the 15 American League clubs with 384 in 48 games — an average of exactly 8.0 a game.
Lo-A Clinton shortstop Nelson Ward entered Saturday with a Midwest League-leading six triples.
Ward, 21, is batting .277 in 44 games, but he also has 26 walks in building a .381 on-base percentage.
The Mariners selected Ward, 21, in the 12th round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of last season at Short-A Everett, when he batted .223 in 31 games.
With the NCAA baseball tournament currently under way, it’s notable that the Mariners and Indians each have two former recipients of the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the top college player:
Indians manager Terry Francona was the 1980 winner at Arizona; Mariners outfielder/DH Rickie Weeks, 2003, Southern; Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer, 2011, UCLA, and Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, 2012, Florida.
It was 16 years ago Sunday — May 31, 1999 — that the Mariners set a major-league record by becoming the first team to hit 100 homers in the first 50 games of a season.
They also matched a major-league record for homers in a month by hitting 58 in May.
The Mariners hit four homers that day in a 10-6 victory over Baltimore at the Kingdome; two by Alex Rodriguez, and one each by Ken Griffey Jr. and Butch Huskey.
The eight scoreless innings Friday by Taijuan Walker lowered the Mariners’ rotation ERA to 3.71, which ranks fourth among the AL’s 15 clubs. The Mariners’ rotation has a 2.90 ERA over the last 40 days (since April 21), which is the best mark in either league over that span…The Mariners entered Saturday with a 14-12 record in May and needing to win one of the two remaining games against the Indians to ensure a winning month…The Mariners, through Friday, had scored a MLB-leading 47.8 percent of their runs through home runs…The Mariners, by winning 2-1 on Friday, improved to 13-9 in one-run games.
The Mariners and Indians conclude their four-game weekend series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field. Left-hander J.A. Happ (3-1, 3.71) will face Cleveland right-hander Danny Salazar (5-1, 3.65).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.