The Yankees want to insert James Paxton back into their starting rotation as soon as possible, but they don’t want his knee problems to linger.
The biggest question mark surrounding James Paxton when the Yankees made the trade to acquire him was his durability. To the surprise of no one, he’s already presenting New York’s front office with a tough decision to make regarding his medical status.
Even though Aaron Boone’s team is coming off a successful 6-1 road trip, there’s reason for concern in the Bronx. Injuries to Paxton, CC Sabathia and Jonathan Loaisiga have left the Yankees’ rotation painfully thin.
Paxton is certainly the closest player of that trio to making his return to the mound. The only question is when the club will elect to bring him back. The talented southpaw threw an extended spring training game on Friday where he threw the ball reasonably well. However, he still felt some measure of discomfort in his injured knee. Paxton and the organization now have to make the hazy determination of whether or not the pitcher is still injured or just feeling a normal amount of soreness as his inflammation subsides.
Boone succinctly described the Paxton situation as the need to identify “the difference between feeling something and pain.” That’s a decision that needs to be made quickly. In an ideal world the Yankees would like for Paxton to rejoin their rotation in the next week. That would greatly reduce the potential taxation on Boone’s bullpen.
On the other hand, the last thing anyone in pinstripes wants to do is rush Paxton back to the mound before he’s confident in his body. That could lead to poor pitching, or even worse, an injury that might put Paxton back on the Injured List for an extended period of time. The Yankees cannot afford to go see both Paxton and Luis Severino sidelined for a period of months.
In fairness, the Yankees should have seen this scenario coming. Paxton has never made more than 28 starts in his MLB career. The book on him has always been that he has ace level stuff when everything is right, but his propensity to come up lame consistently limits his value. The Yankees are really only now experiencing what the Mariners dealt with on an annual basis.
In the end, look for GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ brain trust to err on the side of caution. If they believe Paxton has any chance of suffering a more significant injury by returning to the rotation this week then they will keep him on the Injured List until it subsides. When Big Maple does return to the Yankees, fans can expect him to be completely ready to go.