The Mariners rolled into a wild card spot on Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean they’re postseason-ready. Case in point: left-handed ace James Paxton was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Friday after sustaining a strained left pectoral muscle during Thursday’s start against the Angels. With seven weeks remaining in the regular season, a two-way tie for the second wild card and at least four more American League teams on the verge of playoff contention, this isn’t the moment you want to see your rotation begin to weaken.
MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports that Paxton is expected to be sidelined for up to three weeks, by which point the makeup of the AL wild card standings could look very different. The southpaw is serving his second stint on the 10-day DL after sustaining a forearm strain earlier in the season, and worked up to an impressive 2.78 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 following a relatively quick recovery period. No long-term replacement for Paxton has been announced, but right-hander Andrew Moore was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma in a corresponding move and will pitch out of the bullpen until the Mariners need a spot starter on Tuesday.
Add Paxton’s pectoral strain to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis, Hisashi Iwakuma‘s shoulder inflammation and Drew Smyly‘s Tommy John surgery, and it’s difficult to picture a playoff scenario where the Mariners take the rest of the American League by storm — or at all. They’ve utilized 34 different pitchers this season, the most in Major League Baseball, and will have to get creative in order to remain competitive this fall. Adding another starting pitcher via trade isn’t necessarily out of the question, but finding an affordable starter of Paxton’s caliber will be next-to-impossible.