Paxton eager to take mound for Game 2

PaxtonBPAs the Mariners prepare for their second game of the season tonight against the Angels, the big story line figures to be left-hander James Paxton as the 26-year-old takes the hill in the No. 2 spot in the rotation.

Paxton has loads of talent and could be a key figure in Seattle’s success this season, but he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy and be consistent over the long haul. He’ll certainly face a familiar foe in tonight’s 7:10 p.m. start as of his 17 career starts, four have come against the Angels.

Paxton was 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA vs. the Halos last year, including two wins the first seven days of the season before he went on the disabled list for nearly four months with a shoulder issue.

“We know each other pretty well now,” Paxton said. “Then it becomes baseball. It’s the game within the game now, the chess match. They know what I’ve got. I know what they’ve got. So it makes it fun.”

Paxton has never lost at Safeco Field, where he’s 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA in seven starts over the past two years. He’s now slotted into the No. 2 spot in the rotation as manager Lloyd McClendon wants to give opposing hitters a different look by breaking up right-handers Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma with the lanky lefty.

“I’m just going to go out there and pitch whenever he gives me the ball,” said Paxton. “I kind of saw the way it was shaping up. They had room to make changes and stuff, so I didn’t know for sure. I was just going to be ready whenever he gives me the ball.”

Paxton got a late start to spring due to a bruised forearm and then went 1-2 with a 7.84 ERA in three Cactus League starts. But Hernandez didn’t have good spring numbers either and Paxton said he’s not concerned with his Arizona outcome.

“I didn’t get the results, obviously,” he said. “But I felt like I got myself ready. I feel like my arm is where I need it to be to take that next step up here. I know it didn’t look like it, but I felt like I threw some good pitches and my stuff is where I want to be right now. Once I get out on the mound and it’s for real, it’ll change a little bit.”

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