New York Yankees

Luis Severino’s injury puts James Paxton under pressure to be Yankees ace

James Paxton was acquired to be the No. 2 starter for the Yankees. Luis Severino’s injury will require him to start the season as the team’s ace.

The tall lefty known around the Yankees clubhouse as Big Maple will also be feeling big pressure when the 2019 regular season begins. James Paxton arrived in New York with the expectation that he’d be the team’s No. 2 starter, but Luis Severino’s injury will force him into to the No. 1 spot.

No, Paxton won’t get the ball for the Yankees on Opening Day, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be required to serve as the ace of the staff during the month of April. May is the earliest Severino can return to the rotation according to GM Brian Cashman. That means he’ll miss at least his first four or five projected starts for the year.

No one in the Yankees organization will come out publicly and admit the effect his absence will have on Paxton, but it’s pretty obvious. The Canadian southpaw immediately becomes the starter with the best stuff in Severino’s absence. The applicable questions for Paxton is whether or not he can stay healthy and stand up to pressure of pitching for the Yankees.

Cashman and the front office clearly hope the answer to both of those things is yes. At the very least, his most recent Spring Training outing gave Yankees fans a real glimpse of what Paxton is capable of. Manager Aaron Boone described his outing against the Phillies as “dominant” on Sunday. He baffled the Phillies to the tune of 4 1/3 no-hit innings.

He won’t need to no-hit the opposition once the real season begins, but the Yankees do need him to anchor the starting rotation. That means he’ll need to pitch to a low ERA and go deep into ballgames to prevent the bullpen from being overworked. Given the fact that the team will likely begin the campaign with both Luis Cessa and Domingo German in the rotation it’s imperative that Paxton give the bullpen a rest whenever he can.

The good news for Paxton is that his team begins the season with a pretty soft schedule. He’ll get the opportunity to fatten up on some of the weaker teams in the AL to begin his Yankees career. Only 13 of the team’s first 56 games this season will feature match-ups against team’s that finished over .500 in 2018. In particular, 13 games against the Orioles in that stretch should give Paxton a few chances to dominate pretty weak offenses.

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Paxton can’t cement any sort of Yankees legacy until the postseason, but he must get off to a strong start without Severino beside him in the rotation. If he can start the season as Aaron Boone’s ace it could pay big dividends for the Yankees once Severino is back and at his best.

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