Red Sox lefty James Paxton has summer circled for his 2022 debut

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 07: James Paxton #65 of the Seattle Mariners warms up before the game against the New York Yankees at T-Mobile Park on July 07, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JULY 07: James Paxton #65 of the Seattle Mariners warms up before the game against the New York Yankees at T-Mobile Park on July 07, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

James Paxton eyeing a summer Red Sox debut

James Paxton hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Red Sox since signing with the team this past offseason but he’s hoping that day comes soon. The lefty was brought in despite being on the shelf recovering from Tommy John with the hopes his experience can bolster the starting rotation. Considering that area has been incredibly shaky for Boston, any and every option needs to be looked at.

The southpaw hasn’t pitched in reality since 2020, it’s hard to count 1 1/3 innings in 2021 as anything meaningful. He’s spent the majority of his career in Seattle while having a cup of coffee in the Big Apple. Chaim Bloom was able to ink the lefty an inexpensive deal, one-year/$10M, though they’ll only have to pay him $6M in 2021. It also has two option years for 2023 and 2024 but that’ll all depend on what he can do with the short time he’ll have this year.

Red Sox Nation knows all too well how it is with pitchers returning from Tommy John as a wild amount of our arms have undergone the procedure. Not rushing the process and making sure every checkpoint is hit is what matters the most. As it stands right now, Paxton has late June/early July circled on his calendar. His goal is to be back on the mound before the All-Star break.

"“I’d like to get back as soon as possible,” Paxton said Saturday. “My goal is to be back before the All-Star Break. So we’ll see. I think that there’s a chance I could be back anywhere between late June and early July if everything goes really smoothly. But we’ll have to see how things progress here.”"

If that timeline does come to fruition then he’ll be hitting the mound right around the same time as Chris Sale, adding more lefties to a very right-hand heavy rotation. For what Boston is paying him, I would expect him to join the starters but Alex Cora could also start him in the bullpen to shake the rust off before stretching him out. I could also see the return of Paxton bumping Rich Hill to the pen to make room in the rotation.

Paxton has a fastball that can make any hitter sweat in the batter’s box as it sits in the mid to upper 90s. If he can still exert that kind of velocity and mix in his other arsenal of pitches, he very well may turn into one hell of an investment for the Red Sox going forward. The southpaw is feeling good and has seen some good signs in his bullpen sessions. The optimism is a good sign and he’s scheduled to begin live BP sometime in May.

"“It’s (about) feeling really good, making really good progress, slowly turning up the dial each time, which is the goal here just to let everything adapt,” Paxton said. “I imagine I’ll throw a 35-pitch bullpen when I get back to Fort Myers; 30 or 35 (pitches). And then continue just to add those pitches until I get to live BPs, which will be I believe sometime in early May.”"

Obviously, we won’t know what Paxton can bring to the table for Boston going forward but having a low cost/high reward style contract alleviates some of that worry. If he doesn’t pan out then the team didn’t sink a lot of cash into the experiment. And if he is able to get back to some of his best form and be a reliable arm for AC then we’ve got those options that can be picked up.

I’m hoping we get to see him perform as he did during his first run in Seattle but at 33 years old I also have my expectations set in reality. That he’s feeling good at this point in his rehab and we haven’t heard any news of setbacks is a good sign. Keeping him on track for a summer debut will give the pitching staff a much-needed boost for what is hopefully a second-half playoff push.

When healthy, Paxton is one hell of a pitcher and can bring this Red Sox pitching staff to a different tier, especially if he has his stuff working. Our starters have been very hit or miss through the first two weeks of the season and can get all the support possible right now. Even if he isn’t ready to start right away, I’ll gladly take another strong lefty in the bullpen. With the AL East as dangerous as it is, the more quality arms the better.

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