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Indians, Twins to play two-game series in Puerto Rico next season

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Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that the Indians and Twins will travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a two-game series at hiram Bithorn Stadium April 17-18 next season. The games will be counted as Twins home games.

The last time regular season MLB games were held in Puerto Rico was seven years ago when the Mets and Marlins played a three-game series in June 2010.

Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is from Puerto Rico, said, “It is a dream come true for me to play in Puerto Rico. When the Montreal Expos played in Puerto Rico [in 2003-04], I remember going to those games and thinking to myself, ‘I would love to be here playing in front of my country and people.’ Now that we have the opportunity next April, it is a dream realized for me. These will be the most memorable regular season games of my career, for sure.”

Twins president and CEO Dave St. Peter said, “The Minnesota Twins are honored to visit Puerto Rico and represent Major League Baseball in this international showcase. The Twins look forward to joining MLB and the Cleveland Indians organization in celebrating Puerto Rico’s rich baseball heritage and growing influence on our game.”

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.