Paxton to make long-awaited return Sunday

Mariners lefty out since May 28 with strained finger tendon

Paxton to make long-awaited return Sunday

SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed Saturday that left-hander James Paxton, who has missed more than three months rehabbing a strained tendon in his left middle finger, will start against the Rockies in Sunday's series finale.

"They're telling me he's healthy and he's ready to go. That doesn't mean he can't get hurt again," McClendon said. "I've been told he's 100 percent for his finger and he's ready to go. That's not an issue. Everything else is an issue, not the finger."

McClendon won't announce plans for his rotation through the end of the Mariners' homestand, but Paxton's Sunday return likely means right-hander Taijuan Walker will be pushed back a day to Monday's series opener against the Angels with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma starting on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Paxton last started for the Mariners on May 28, when he was pulled in the fifth inning of a start against Cleveland with finger discomfort and placed on the disabled list the following day. In the four starts leading up to his injury-shortened outing, Paxton went 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA.

The left-hander pitched in rehab outings for Triple-A Tacoma on Aug. 23, Aug. 28 and Sept. 2, but didn't throw more than 62 pitches in any of the starts as his final rehab outing was limited to 44 pitches due to a tear in his left middle fingernail. Still, McClendon said he isn't worried about pushing the 26-year-old lefty deeper into his first start back.

"I would imagine [Paxton can last seven innings]," McClendon said. "Go until you can't go anymore."

Paxton will face the Rockies for the first time Sunday. In four career Interleague starts, he is 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA.

Worth noting

• Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was back in the lineup Friday after missing six games with a right groin injury. Gutierrez pinch-hit for John Hicks in Seattle's 4-2 loss to the Rockies on Friday, striking out to end the seventh.

"It is what it is and he'll give me what he's got," McClendon said. "If he can play he'll play, if he can't he'll come out of the game. There's nothing to monitor."

Nelson Cruz, who has gone 2-for-8 with a home run in the designated hitter slot since returning from a right quad injury, will likely not play outfield for the remainder of the Mariners' homestand.

"He's still nursing it," McClendon said. "He's not 100 percent."

• The Mariners will take the field Saturday wearing special "Marineros" jerseys for Salute to Latin American Beisbol Night at Safeco Field.

Andrew Erickson is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.