Per Conor Glassey of Baseball America, Mariners LHP James Paxton will make his professional debut tonight for the Clinton LumberKings.
Paxton, a fourth round draft pick in 2010, didn’t sign until after Spring Training began. While the reports on his spring performance were impressive, the organization decided to hold him back from a full-season assignment right off the bat in order to build his arm strength and let him tune things up before assigning him. Now he’s been deemed ready, and is headed for the Midwest League.
Whether or not Paxton starts tonight is not yet known. Tonight’s starter for the LumberKings is currently listed as Seon Gi Kim, but the move has not yet been officially announced. Even if Kim does start tonight, Paxton could be in line for several innings, as the young Korean has yet to crack 5 1/3 innings pitched in any of his starts so far this year. As soon as I have more information, including the roster move to make room for Paxton on the roster, I’ll bring it to you.
UPDATE: The move is now official. Paxton has been added to the roster and will be starting for the LumberKings tonight in place of Kim. LHP Jason Markowitz was promoted to High Desert, creating the hole that Paxton has now filled. The full text of the press release is at the end of the post.
How long Paxton stays in Clinton is entirely up to him and how he performs. There’s little doubt from his past that he has the stuff and pitching approach to be fast-tracked, but he has to show that he’s still got it after a disappointing 2010 season in independent ball. The pitcher-friendly MWL is a good place for him to get his feet wet and re-establish himself.
Clinton also made another move last night: outfielder Kevin Rivers was placed on the 7-day DL with an unspecified injury, and OF Jabari Blash was called up from extended spring camp. Rivers was scuffling a little bit in the early run of the season, putting up just a .695 OPS through 17 games.
Blash is an intriguing player with a lot of upside, so his early progress will bear monitoring in his first stint in a full-season league. He went 1/3 last night with an RBI in his debut.
Fourth-Rounder Paxton to Make Pro Debut Tonight
Left-hander James Paxton added to Clinton roster, will start against Peoria at 6:30 PM
Clinton, IA – The Clinton LumberKings, in conjunction with the Seattle Mariners have announced the following transaction for the Clinton 25-man roster: left-hander James Paxton has joined the club from extended Spring Training, replacing left-hander Jason Markovitz who was promoted to high-A High Desert today.
Paxton, 23, signed with the Mariners on March 4 after Seattle selected him in the fourth round of the 2010 June draft. The Ladner, British Columbia native was a standout at the University of Kentucky from 2007 through 2009, going 11-5 with a 4.91 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 55 career games, 24 starts for the Wildcats. In his junior season (2009), his 13.22 strikeouts per 9.0 innings ranked third amongst all NCAA pitchers. Following that year, he was selected in the supplemental first round (39th overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays, but did not sign. Paxton was a college teammate of Clinton native Tyler Howe.
Markovitz, 22, went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA over five relief appearances with the LumberKings this season. He’s the second player to be promoted from Clinton to High Desert this week, joining infielder Anthony Phillips.
Paxton is wearing #47 and will make his first professional start tonight against the Peoria Chiefs. The moves give Clinton a total of 25 active players with two on the disabled list.
First pitch at Alliant Energy Field is scheduled for 6:30 PM, listen on AM 1390 KCLN in Clinton or live on the web at 1390kcln.com.