That was fast

In our season predictions post, everyone here at HQ foresaw oft-injured starting pitcher James Paxton hitting the IL at some point this season. When we couldn't say, but definitely before fellow injured-list veteran Mitch Haniger would do so. Safe to say, though, that none of us imagined the Big Maple going down after facing just five batters and not pitching again for the whole year.

That looks like the reality, though. After breezing through 113 innings against the White Sox last Tuesday night, the 32-year-old Canadian had to come out of the game with an unidentified discomfort issue in his left (pitching) arm. He got an MRI yesterday and this afternoon it was reported that doctors recommend Paxton have Tommy John surgery, which implies the injury is a strain or tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. Paxton is soliciting a second opinion, hoping for a less traumatic road to recovery.

UCL injuries have become increasingly common in baseball players, especially pitchers, as has the repair procedure named for the first player to successfully undergo the surgery. The Mariners alone have four pitchers on their active roster who have had it done (Marco Gonzales, Keynan Middleton, Kendall Graveman, and Rafael Montero) and four more under contract who are currently rehabbing from it (Ken Giles, Andres Muñoz, Matt Festa, and Roenis Elías). Players who return from TJ surgery are by and large quite successful in resuming their careers; the downside is the time it takes to recover. The rehab period for TJ patients is generally six to nine months for position players and 18 months for pitchers. If Paxton does opt for the procedure, the soonest he could be back on a big-league mound would be in the closing weeks of the 2022 season.

Paxton returned to the Mariners on a one-year contract, meaning the M's would have to sign him to an extension if he were to pitch again for Seattle. This is also an increasingly common occurrence—several pitchers, including Giles and Elías, have been signed to contracts before or during their rehabilitation period for a year beyond their expected return to health.

For now, we wait and see. The Big Maple may find a doctor who gives a different recommendation that he chooses to follow. But if he does go under the knife, we hope to see him back with the M's next year or in 2023, thrilling the capacity crowds at TMP and rewarding the loyalty of his Maple Grove cheering section in the left field bleachers.

Meanwhile, Paxton's fans on Twitter have spoken for a lot of us.