James Paxton appeared to be on the verge of coming off the disabled list and rejoining the Mariners’ rotation after missing the past six weeks with a shoulder injury, but now the rookie left-hander has been shut down again.
Paxton threw 62 pitches in a minor-league rehab start Saturday at Triple-A for his first game action since April 8, but then complained of soreness and underwent an MRI exam that revealed shoulder inflammation. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that he’ll be completely shut down for at least one week, so returning to the majors before July now seems unlikely.
Paxton was very impressive in his first two starts before the injury and, combined with his strong MLB debut for the Mariners last September, he has a 5-0 record and 1.75 ERA through six career starts. He also ranked as a consensus top-100 prospect coming into the season.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.