Former UK southpaw James Paxton wins his MLB debut for Seattle Mariners

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Former Kentucky southpaw James Paxton fired a quality start in his MLB debut for the Seattle Mariners, earning the win in a 6-2 result over the Tampa Bay Rays, on Saturday night at Safeco Field in Seattle.

Paxton, who pitched for the Wildcats from 2007-09, worked six strong innings in his MLB debut for the Mariners, allowing just four hits and one earned run, walking one and striking out three.

A native of Ladner, British Columbia, Paxton is the sixth former Wildcat in MLB in 2013 and the fourth former UK left-handed pitcher in the big leagues. Former UK lefties Andrew Albers (Twins), Scott Downs (Braves) and Chris Rusin (Cubs), join former UK right-hander Joe Blanton (Angels) and former All-America outfielder Collin Cowgill (Angels) as former Wildcats in MLB.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder is just the third pitcher in Mariners history to throw at least six innings, with just one earned run allowed, in his MLB debut, joining Blake Beavan (2011) and Erik Hanson (1988).

“Early on I was a little amped up, but I felt I got in a groove and was able to narrow my focus,” Paxton said postgame to’s Greg Johns. “It was just another baseball game, just a nicer stadium.”

While at Kentucky, Paxton won 11 games in his three seasons, where he was a first-round draft pick in 2009 by the Toronto Blue Jays. His best season came as a sophomore, owning a 4-2 record and a 2.92 ERA in 17 games, including a complete-game shutout vs. Ole Miss in the regular-season finale series. As a junior, Paxton was a key part of the weekend rotation, making 13 starts with a 5-3 record and a 5.86 ERA.

Over his minor league career, Paxton has a 23-18 mark with a 3.45 ERA in 66 games and 64 starts. He earned a 4.45 ERA in his first 28 games in the hitter friendly triple-A Pacific Coast League, ranking among the league leaders in innings pitched (145.2) and strikeouts (131).

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