Seattle Mariners

Mariners skip James Paxton’s start because of lingering back injury

FILE - In this July 12, 2018, file photo, Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton, left, and a trainer walk off the field after Paxton was removed during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.
FILE - In this July 12, 2018, file photo, Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton, left, and a trainer walk off the field after Paxton was removed during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

No, the sky is not falling in Seattle Marinerland. At least, that’s how manager Scott Servais attempted to sell it on Tuesday afternoon with James Paxton still on the disabled list.

All indications pointed to Paxton returning for a Tuesday night start against the San Francisco Giants at Safeco Field after missing just one start; instead Paxton remains on the DL with back stiffness.

Paxton threw a 40-pitch bullpen session on Saturday and felt fine. But he entered the clubhouse Sunday more sore than he expected.

“I thought after the bullpen I was for sure going to start the game today,” Paxton said. “But coming in the next day and having that soreness just showed me I wasn’t there yet.”

So left-hander Roenis Elias took Paxton’s place in the rotation for his first major-league start since June 16, 2016. That day he pitched for the Boston Red Sox against the Mariners and allowed seven runs in four innings. Elias hasn’t started for the Mariners since the 2015 season.

Servais was confident the Mariners could get through Tuesday with Elias and with right-hander Casey Lawrence, who started 11 games with Triple-A Tacoma this year, in reserve.

“I called Roenis this morning at home and said, “Oh, by the way, you’re going to pitch tonight,’” Servais said. “And he’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m ready.’ I said, ‘No, you’re going to start tonight.’ He said, ‘Yeah? … well thanks for the call.’

“And that was it,” Servais laughed. “That’s just how he rolls.”

The thought about Paxton’s trip to the disabled list was more of a technicality than a cause for concern. The Mariners were approaching the All-Star break and Paxton wouldn’t have made another start, anyway, after leaving his start against the Angels in the first inning.

So count this as the first start Paxton’s missed this season, though after injury-filled seasons the past two years, he was hoping to get through this one injury-free for the first time.

This season Paxton is 8-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 20 starts after making 24 starts all of last year and 20 in 2016.

Servais said they don’t expect Paxton would miss another start, giving him essentially until June 30 when the Mariners host the American League West-leading Houston Astros to get right.

“We have a big part of our season coming up and he’s obviously a huge factor in what we’re doing,” Servais said. “His ability to carry innings and be as dominant as he can be – we’re going to need him.

“He came out of the game in Anaheim and I didn’t think it was anything serious. Knowing Paxton, he wants to be 100 percent and be really good and not have to alter anything in his delivery.”

That was the ultimate concern. Paxton didn’t want to come back overstressing his arm to compensate for the soreness in his back, which caused him to leave with two outs in the first inning of the Mariners’ 11-2 loss to the Angels on July 12.

He played catch on Monday, but his back still didn’t feel right, he said. He said he’ll continue to throw this week, including another bullpen when the Mariners head to Anaheim to play the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.

“Just trying to be smart,” Paxton said. “I think I made the mistake in the past of pushing it and having some linger for a while and me not pitching at my best for a period of time. We’re fighting for the postseason here, and we need the best me out there to help us just trying to do that.”

Ramirez rehab

Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez will start for Triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday in Texas against the Round Rock Express in his second rehab start recovering from a strained right teres major muscle.

Ramirez tossed two perfect innings last week for the Rainiers. Servais said the plan will be to stretch him to 3-4 innings Wednesday. They’d like to get him to five innings before they activated him from the disabled list.

Not that it means they’re viewing him as a starter when he returns.

“I’d like to be able to have that if we need to slide somebody into the rotation,” Servais said. “If not, he’s pitched out of the bullpen before in the length role. The biggest thing is to get him healthy.”

Ramirez allowed 11 runs in 9 2/3 innings over two starts for the Mariners when he was activated from the DL in April from his strained lat muscle. He was projected to be the Mariners’ No. 4 starter to open the season after his 3.92 ERA in 11 starts after the Mariners re-acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017.

Heart and Hustle

Guillermo Heredia was selected as the Mariners’ recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award, which is selected by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. It’s the only award in major league baseball voted on by former players and it honors players who demonstrate “a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.”

“Guillermo plays the game with a level of passion that is both contagious and admired by all who watch him play,” first base coach and former MLB center fielder Chris Prieto said in a release. “His commitment to every pitch in a game reflects not only his heart bu this gratefulness to be able to play this great game.”

Heredia, who is from Matanzas, Cuba, became the Mariners’ primary center fielder when Robinson Cano was suspended and Dee Gordon moved from center to second base in late May. He’s lauded for his defense, but Here’dia has batted .180 (24-for-133) in 47 games (39 starts) since Cano’s suspension.

One player from each big-league club is chosen by the Heart and Hustle commitees and the final winner will be announced Nov. 8.

On tap

Right-hander Mike Leake (8-6, 4.22 ERA) will start the Mariners’ 1:10 p.m. Wednesday series finale against the Giants at Safeco Field. The Giants starter had yet to be determined.

It will broadcast exclusively on Facebook Watch, as selected by MLB, and 710-AM radio.

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill