Aaron Cook suffers broken ring finger, likely out until May

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Aaron Cook is giving new meaning to the phrase “tough-luck pitcher.”

Cook was already expected to begin the season on the disabled list due to inflammation in his shoulder, but he could now be sidelined until May after breaking the ring finger on his pitching hand.

As he explained to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, Cook suffered the injury when he accidentally shut a door on his hand.

“It’s unfortunate. I woke up today after long-tossing and my shoulder was pain-free, but my finger really hurt,” Cook told The Denver Post. “At two weeks, I am hoping to start throwing. I don’t use the finger really to grip the ball. So as long as it doesn’t hurt when I throw, I am going to push as fast as I can to get back.”

Cook first felt symptoms with his shoulder following his second bullpen session of the spring, so he’ll essentially need to start from scratch once he’s ready to throw. That means the Rockies will have to settle on a fifth starter for the first month of the season.

Felipe Paulino, who was acquired from the Astros in the Clint Barmes trade, has already been moved to the bullpen after allowing five runs in six innings over his first two appearances this spring. That leaves Esmil Rogers as the current favorite, though Clayton Mortensen and John Maine could also be considered.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.