Paxton feels ready for Minors rehab stint

Mariners lefty pleased with 30-pitch simulated game

Paxton feels ready for Minors rehab stint

ARLINGTON -- James Paxton threw 30 pitches in two innings of simulated game conditions Tuesday at Globe Life Park, and the Mariners left-hander said he's feeling good enough to begin a Minor League rehab soon.

Paxton has been sidelined for 2 1/2 months with a strained middle finger on his throwing hand, but threw without any issues while facing Mariners coaches Chris Woodward and Andy Van Slyke in a pair of 15-pitch innings.

"It felt great," the 26-year-old Canadian said before Tuesday's 3-2 Mariners win over the Rangers. "I just wanted to get the ball down, execute a few pitches and overall have no pain at all, which is what I had. So that was great."

Paxton began the season in the No. 2 spot in the rotation and went 3-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 10 starts before hurting his finger. If he's able to go out on a rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma soon, he potentially could rejoin the Mariners for about the final four weeks of the season.

"We'll see how I come in [Wednesday] and feel," Paxton said. "Obviously I think that after today, personally I feel I'm ready to go for a rehab start. But we'll see what these guys want me to do."

"He threw the ball with a lot of life and felt no pain," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "It was a good step forward for him. We'll see how he feels [Wednesday] and then make a decision after that."

Paxton was encouraged that his curveball was much better against live hitters than it had been in his recent bullpen sessions. He said he also threw some good cutters and decent changeups, which led him to believe he's not far from being game ready.

"Two innings is like the beginning of Spring Training, but I feel better than I did in spring," he said. "My stuff is sharper, my pitches are better, I feel like I'm closer pitch-wise to the end of Spring Training."

Pitching coach Rick Waits noted that the curveball puts extra pressure on the injured middle finger, so he was happy to see no problems in any regard as Paxton went about his business on a 97-degree afternoon.

"He's been working his tail off on the treadmill and bike and whatever he can do," Waits said. "I saw good endurance. His best pitches were at the end in the second round and it's a hot day. I was pretty encouraged. I never expect much when they go out that first time facing hitters. And yet he had the ball down in the zone and the offspeed stuff was sharper than I thought it would be."

Worth noting

• The Mariners are awaiting word from their team physician on Charlie Furbush's left biceps after the veteran reliever flew back to Seattle for further tests on his sore arm, which has sidelined him since July 8.

Felix Hernandez will start against White Sox lefty Chris Sale in a matchup of two of the American League's top hurlers when the Mariners open a six-game homestand Friday. Vidal Nuno is slated to pitch Saturday for Seattle, with Taijuan Walker closing out the three-game set against the White Sox on Sunday.

• Ramon Flores, the outfielder acquired from the Yankees in the Dustin Ackley trade on July 31, will have surgery Thursday to repair his fractured right ankle. General manager Jack Zduriencik said the club will know more about his prognosis after that. Flores, ranked the No. 26-ranked Mariners prospect by, dislocated and broke his ankle when he slipped on the wet grass at Cheney Stadium on Friday. The 23-year-old had hit .423 in 14 games for Tacoma since his arrival.

• Danny Hultzen, the team's first-round Draft pick in 2011, has been shut down for the remainder of the season and will point toward being ready for the start of Spring Training, Zduriencik said. Hultzen missed all of 2014 following shoulder surgery and was able to pitch just three games for Double-A Jackson this season.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.