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Seattle Mariners

James Paxton aims for repeat performance, only longer

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton pitches against Kansas City in an August game. Paxton hopes to pitch 200 innings in 2018. (Orlin Wagner / Associated Press)
By Doug Pacey Associated Press

PEORIA, Ariz. – If people want to say James Paxton is a pitch away from landing on the disabled list, the Seattle Mariners lefty won’t argue with them.

Injuries to his fingers, forearm, elbow, pectoral muscle and back muscle have forced Paxton to miss significant chunks of each of the past four seasons.

“What am I going to do, go sit in a corner and cry about people telling me I’m going to get hurt?” Paxton said Saturday at the Peoria Sports Complex. “That doesn’t help me at all. I’m going to go out and try to do everything I can to get better and find a way to stay healthy.”

That includes an overhaul of his diet after learning during the offseason that cow’s milk causes inflammation in his body. Eliminating dairy hasn’t been easy, said Paxton, who makes his offseason home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

“It’s all about limiting the amount of inflammation your body experiences after starts and in between them,” Paxton said. “If I can find more of those little things that can add up to me staying healthy, that’s the goal.”

Mariners manager Scott Servais understands the nuanced approach Paxton and other athletes are taking. He pointed out quarterback Tom Brady excelling in the NFL as a 40-year-old as an example of players paying more attention to their bodies, diet and training regimens in an attempt to compete at peak condition and extend a playing career.

“These guys are smart,” Servais said. “They look at this stuff. What are these athletes doing? How is he still performing at age 40? I’m sure Paxton would love to be pitching when he’s 40. If this can somehow extend the window, why not?”

For now, Paxton simply wants to hit a nice, round number.

“I’m looking to get closer to that 200-inning range,” he said. “That’s the goal for this year – don’t miss any starts and get to that 200-inning benchmark.”

If Paxton can duplicate his performance last year over an injury-free season in 2018, he’ll be recognized as one of the top pitchers in baseball.

When he was healthy in 2017, Paxton was Seattle’s best pitcher, going 12-5, with a 2.98 ERA and averaging more than a strikeout per inning. The 29-year threw a career-high 136 innings.

“I think I had the best results of my career last season,” he said. “If I can stay on the field for the entire year and do what I did, I think I’ll have a pretty good season.”

NOTES: Mariners ace Felix Hernandez threw his first bullpen session of spring training. The 31-year-old right-hander tossed 27 pitches. “I threw everything,” he said. “Curveball, changeup, sinker, one slider.”