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Tommy John surgery recommended for Mariners starter James Paxton

It’s a crushing blow for Seattle and Paxton, who would be out until mid-2022

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton tossed just 1.1 innings in his season debut on Tuesday before exiting with an arm injury. Now, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that Tommy John surgery has been recommended for the southpaw.

Paxton was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained left forearm on Wednesday. He then underwent an MRI, which led to the surgery recommendation.

The 32-year-old was originally drafted by the Mariners in 2010 and made his MLB debut in 2013. He went on to spend parts of six seasons in the majors with Seattle, finishing his tenure with the club in 2018. That same year, he led all of baseball in complete games and shutouts. Paxton was then trades to the Yankees ahead of the 2019 season and spent two games with New York. He returned to Seattle on a one-year, $8.5 million deal this offseason.

Paxton’s medical record is fairly lengthy. He missed nearly four months in 2014 with a left Latissimus dorsi muscle strain, over three months in 2015 with a strained tendon in his left middle finger, and just over two weeks in 2016 with a left elbow contusion. The bad luck continued in 2017 thanks to a left forearm strain and strained left pectoral muscle. These two injuries held him out for over two months combined.

In 2018, he missed over a month in total while battling lower back inflammation and left forearm contusion, then was held out for another month in 2019 with left knee inflammation. In August of 2020, he suffered a season-ending left flexor strain.

This latest injury extends a frustrating streak for Paxton. Tommy John surgery will mean he has missed at least two weeks due to injury in each of the last eight seasons. That trend will reach nine years when he misses the opening part of 2022 while still recovering.

While Paxton has never been an All-Star or Cy Young award candidate (the injuries are a big part of this), he has still shown that he can be a very valuable rotation arm when healthy. He owns a 3.59 career ERA to accompany his 57-33 record. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end.

Prior to his injury, Paxton had been the No. 2 in the Mariners’ rotation behind Marco Gonzales. Yusei Kikuchi will fill Paxton’s role, while Chris Flexen, Justin Dunn, and Justus Sheffield will round out the final three.