Mariners lefty James Paxton is slated to make his final start of the season Saturday, and he’ll be on a pitch count of about 85, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. Paxton is aiming to top 160 innings in an effort to build up to the point where he’d be able to strive for a 200-inning season without any workload limitations. Paxton, 30 in November, has never approached that mark in any professional season, topping out at a combined 171 2/3 innings between Triple-A and the Majors in 2016. He’s battled everything from a lat strain, to a forearm strain, back inflammation and a severe tendon injury in his pitching hand over the course of an impressive but injury-laden career to date. Seattle has control of Paxton through the 2020 season and will certainly be hoping for a larger workload and better health next season, given the deterioration of previous ace Felix Hernandez. Thus far in 2018, Paxton has pitched a career-high 154 1/3 innings with a career-best 11.6 K/9 mark against just 2.5 BB/9. He’s been more homer-prone than in recent years (1.34 HR/9) but still owns a solid 3.85 ERA that is backed by career-best marks in fielding-independent marks like xFIP (3.08) and SIERA (3.01).
More from the division…
- The Angels shut down right-hander Ty Buttrey for the remainder of the season this week, as the promising 25-year-old has been dealing with a bout of bursitis in his right knee, per MLB.com’s Maria Guardado (Twitter links). Buttrey’s ascension to the big leagues didn’t draw many headlines, but he’s quietly been sensational both in the upper minors and in 16 1/3 innings for the Angels since being acquired from the Red Sox in the trade that sent Ian Kinsler to Boston. Buttrey pitched to a combined 2.20 ERA with 13.6 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 with three different minor league affiliates this season, and he’s sporting a 3.31 ERA with an outstanding 20-to-5 K/BB ratio and a 56.8 percent ground-ball rate in the Majors. He’s averaged a hearty 96 mph on his heater thus far in his young Major League career, and so long as his knee issues don’t prove to be especially serious, he should have an opportunity to earn his way into high-leverage spots with the Halos early next season; he did, after all, tally four saves with the Angels shortly after his MLB debut. Small sample caveats clearly apply, but the Angels have to be pleased with the early returns on that swap.
- The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan takes a look at six questions facing the Astros as the gear up for the American League Division Series against the Indians, including a pair of questions they’ll face in setting their roster (subscription link). If Lance McCullers Jr. is ready to go as a piece in the bullpen, Houston brass will have to decide between a hard-throwing multi-inning option, Josh James, and Joe Smith, a seasoned veteran who could be a matchup specialist against Cleveland sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson. The ’Stros also need to weigh whether Max Stassi should be carried as a third catcher, thus freeing up more pinch-hitting opportunities, or if Myles Straw and his blazing speed should command the final bench spot.
- Ramon Laureano’s brilliant play with the Athletics since debuting in early August has earned him the team’s everyday center fielder role moving forward, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. That spot had been earmarked for Dustin Fowler, a more high-profile prospect acquisition in last summer’s Sonny Gray blockbuster with the Yankees, but he now looks like a corner option for the foreseeable future. Oakland added Laureano in a trade that barely went noticed last November, sending minor league righty Brandon Bailey to the Astros in return. Since debuting, though, Laureano has posted a .295/.364/.486 batting line with terrific center field defense and a perfect seven steals in seven attempts. A’s EVP Billy Beane tells Slusser that the “job is [Laureano’s],” adding that the 24-year-old “has played that position just about as well as anyone we’ve ever had here.”