Mariners Finally Sign James Paxton





PEORIA, Ariz. — There seemed to be a time when James Paxton would never sign.

The Blue Jays drafted the 6-foot-4, 220-pound lefthander in the first round two years ago, but working with agent Scott Boras meant he couldn't return to Kentucky to play, so he headed off to play with Grand Prairie and play an independent league schedule when he and the Blue Jays couldn't strike a deal.

The Mariners jumped on him in the fourth round last year, but Seattle was doing no better than the Blue Jays until March 4, when Paxton agreed to terms for $942,500. The next day he was in the Mariners' big league camp, throwing on the side.

That's not to suggest he'll be a big leaguer this year, the Mariners just wanted him working out in advance of the opening of minor league camp. But Seattle does see a big league future in the former star at Kentucky.

"I think it finally came down to his desire to play," general manager Jack Zduriencik said after the signing. "This is a guy we've liked for a long time. And we never gave up talking."

Paxton, 22, throws a fastball that has been clocked at 97 mph, and in a lefthanded pitcher, that's prized indeed.

Growing up as a Mariners fan in Ladner, a Vancouver B.C., suburb a little over two hours from Seattle, signing with the Mariners is a little like coming home for Paxton. He was a huge Ichiro Suzuki fan growing up, but as a lefthander, the man he watched was the Yankees' Andy Pettitte.

"We saw him pitch in Kentucky, saw him pitch in the independent league, and we had him in the mid-90s with a good fastball and slider," Zduriencik said of Paxton. "As I've said all along in this job, it's all about adding talent. We've added a quality lefthanded pitcher to the fold."

MARINADE

• Righthander Michael Pineda, who is hoping to make the big league rotation, has been hanging around with Felix Hernandez all spring, trying to pick the brain of the Cy Young Award winner. "It's a great sign," pitching coach Carl Willis said. "He's hungry, he wants to learn, he wants to be the best he can be—and he's got all the physical abilities. Like many of us, he still needs to learn how to play the game, and prepare to play the game."

• Catcher Steve Baron will probably stay in the Mariners big league camp longer than originally expected due to the groin injury suffered by Miguel Olivo.