Taijuan Walker rejoined the Mariners’ rotation yesterday after a long time on the sidelines and fellow top pitching prospect James Paxton is finally making some progress in his return as well.
Paxton has been on the disabled list since early April with a shoulder injury, getting shut down multiple times due to setbacks in his recovery, but Greg Johns of MLB.com reports that the 25-year-old left-hander threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Monday without any problems.
If all goes well he could be cleared for a simulated game next week, at which point the Mariners would start planning out a minor-league rehab assignment.
Paxton’s career got off to a great start, as he went 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA through six outings dating back to last season, and if the Mariners can ever get a healthy Walker and a healthy Paxton into the rotation alongside Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma they’d be capable of making a big push in the second half.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.