James Paxton is on the verge of his first Major League game in over two years, as Red Sox manager Alex Cora has told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) that Paxton is expected to join the team this week.
Paxton won’t start during Boston’s upcoming two-game series against the Atlanta Braves, which indicates that he will return to the rotation at some point during the team’s three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals from May 12-14.
Paxton underwent Tommy John surgery in April, 2021, when he was a member of the Mariners. The Red Sox subsequently made something of a speculative move by signing the left-hander to a free agent deal during the 2021-22 offseason.
That contract contained a pair of club options (each worth $13M) for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, but also a $4M player option Paxton could exercise if the Sox declined their own options. With Paxton missing the entire 2022 campaign due to both his TJ rehab and then a lat tear, Boston indeed declined its club options while Paxton triggered his $4M option. Ultimately, it turned his deal into a two-year, $10M pact overall.
If those past injuries were not enough, Paxton also had a Grade 1 hamstring strain during spring training that delayed his ramp-up period to the point that another 15-day IL stint was required at the beginning of the 2023 season.
Pitching in six games at Triple-A Worcester during his rehab, Paxton has posted a 6.23 ERA over 21 2/3 innings, largely due to one disastrous outing — the only relief appearance during his six trips to the mound — that saw him tagged for seven runs in 2/3 of an inning on April 19. In his last two rehab starts, Paxton allowed only two runs over 10 1/3 total innings. He topped the 90-pitch threshold in both games.
The Red Sox don’t play on either Monday or Thursday and they also have days off on May 18, 25 and 29. This gives the club some flexibility in how they arrange their pitching staff when Paxton does return.
Garrett Whitlock is also expected to be activated from the 15-day injured list this week and Cora said the Sox are considering the possibility of a six-man rotation to accommodate a full rotation, though the preponderance of upcoming off-days could lead to some extended time between starts if the Red Sox did try for a larger rotation.
Red Sox Swing Much-Needed Trade With Rangers To Bolster Pitching Depth