The Mariners announced today that they’ve placed ace Felix Hernandez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right calf muscle and recalled lefty James Paxton from Triple-A Tacoma in a corresponding move. As MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes, the injury isn’t believed to be overly serious at this time, and the M’s are hopeful that King Felix will miss just two starts, as the DL stint is backdated to Saturday.
The 30-year-old Hernandez is currently sporting a strong 2.86 ERA, but he struggled in his last outing (six runs on eight hits and a walk in six innings) and has displayed some other red flags throughout the 2016 season. Hernandez’s fastball is averaging a career-low 90 mph and has only shown minimal improvement over the course of the season, and he’s also averaging 3.7 walks per nine innings, although his command has taken a turn for the better after a rocky month of April in that regard (18 walks in 32 2/3 innings). Control problems and velocity decline aside, Hernandez still leads the Mariners’ staff in ERA and is second to Hisashi Iwakuma in total innings (63).
The 27-year-old Paxton will be appearing in his fourth season at the Major League level when he takes the hill tonight against the Padres. Injuries have slowed an otherwise promising career quite substantially, but the former fourth-round pick and top 100 prospect is off to a fine start in Triple-A this season, having logged a 3.97 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 in 47 2/3 innings of work. While that’s a fairly modest innings total to this point in the season, it’s worth pointing out that Paxton tossed just 103 innings last year between the minors, Majors and Arizona Fall League, and he worked just 87 combined innings in 2014. From a service time standpoint, Paxton is at two years, 27 days right now, so even if he were to remain in the Majors for the duration of the season (which seems unlikely, barring another injury elsewhere on the pitching staff), he’d fall shy of three years. He would, however, enter Super Two territory with another 100 days or so on the Major League roster.