That the news on Mariners lefty James Paxton could have been worse doesn’t diminish that it’s bad enough. He is expected to miss at least three weeks while he recovers from a strained left pectoral muscle.
At least three weeks.
“I was very surprised,” said Paxton, who suffered the injury Thursday night in the seventh inning of a 6-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
“When I woke up this morning, I felt pretty good. I wasn’t expecting it to be a strain that was going to keep me out for a few weeks. It turns out that’s what it is. But, hopefully, I’ll be able to recover quickly and get back to helping the team.”
Club officials hinted at the seriousness of the injury Thursday in characterizing it as a strained muscle, which indicated they suspected it was torn to some degree. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam Friday confirmed the strain.
“I was talking to Dr. (Edward) Khalfayan,” Paxton said, “and he said it’s a very rare injury to see in pitchers. I feel like I’ve had enough of those.”
Paxton spent time on the disabled list in each of the past four years and has yet to make more than 20 big-league starts in any season. He missed nearly four weeks in May because a strained forearm muscle.
The Mariners placed Paxton on the 10-day disabled list prior to Friday’s game against the Angels and replaced him on the roster by recalling right-hander Andrew Moore from Triple-A Tacoma.
While Moore is a candidate to replace Paxton in the rotation, he will, at least initially, work out of the bullpen as a long reliever.
“He’ll be here to help out in the bullpen,” manager Scott Servais said. “Our bullpen is stretched right now as well. We’ve been running those guys hard. That’s what happens when you win a bunch of games that way we’ve won them.”
For Paxton, an initial timetable of three weeks suggests he is dealing with a minor muscle strain, although more should be known early next week when he is scheduled to undergo another examination.
“We need to get the inflammation down,” he said, “and then we’ll reevaluate as we go on here. Just take it one step at a time.”
Losing Paxton is a major blow to an already-shaky rotation that is dealing with injuries to Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma along with poor performances from other pitchers.
Paxton had been a notable exception in compiling a 12-3 record with a 2.78 ERA in 20 starts. He was picked as the American League’s pitcher of the month in July after going 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA in six starts.
“Obviously, it’s disheartening news,” Servais said. “It’s been a crazy season with all of the injuries. To put ourselves in the position we’re in right now, a lot of it has had to do with James Paxton. He’s been really good.”
The Mariners entered Friday’s game at 59-57 and tied with Tampa Bay in the race for the AL’s final wild-card berth with 46 games remaining.
“We’ve got to find a way to keep it rolling here,” Servais said. “We can look at it as a challenge or look at it as a threat. We’ll take the challenge — and it’s going to be a challenge. There’s no doubt.”
The Mariners’ current rotation is Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, Ariel Miranda, Yovani Gallardo and Moore or whomever replaces Paxton.
Hernandez is expected to miss at least three more weeks while he recovers from a second bout with bursitis in his right shoulder.
Iwakuma hasn’t pitched since May 3 because of a sore shoulder. While he continues to progress in a throwing program, he encountered several setbacks over the last three-plus months and remains a question mark.
Now Paxton is out, at a minimum, until September.
“We’ll put a plan together,” Servais said, “and see how we can keep things afloat here until we get (Paxton) back healthy. I’m going to stay optimistic. I hope it is only three weeks, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners