LEXINGTON, Ky. - Former Kentucky left-handed pitcher James Paxton will be called up to make his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, it was announced by the organization.
A native of Ladner, British Columbia, Paxton played at Kentucky from 2007-09 before being a first-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009. Paxton signed with the Mariners as a fourth-round pick in 2010 after a season in independent baseball. Paxton will start on Saturday at Safeco Field vs. the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle will employ a six-man rotation for the remainder of the 2013 MLB season.
“I was hoping to get an opportunity and I'm just happy that I'm here. I can't wait to get my chance,” Paxton said in a story by Robert Falkoff for MLB.com.
A 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, Paxton, made 28 starts for the Tacoma Rainiers in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He posted an 8-11 record and a 4.45 ERA, tossing two complete games in 145.2 innings, striking out 131. He finished the year ranked sixth in the circuit in innings pitched and third in strikeouts.
“It was been an up-and-down season for me,” Paxton said. “At the beginning of the year, I kind of struggled while learning the league. I got to know the batters better, got more confidence and rattled off some good outings. Then, I had a couple of rough ones, but I feel like I finished strong. I'm coming in feeling pretty good about my stuff and where I am.”
“It's great to get those 'firsts' out of the way,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said in the MLB.com story. “He has worked hard to get here and deserves to be here. You get a chance to compete at the highest level and work off where you are from there.”
In his three-year minor league career, Paxton owns a 23-18 record and a 3.45 ERA in 66 games and 64 starts. While at Kentucky, Paxton posted an 11-5 career record with a 4.93 ERA in 55 games and 24 starts. As a freshman, Paxton appeared in 25 games in relief, before having a breakout season as a sophomore with a 4-2 mark and a 2.92 ERA in 17 games and 11 starts. As a junior, Paxton went 5-3 with a 5.86 ERA in 13 starts.
Paxton, a 2010 MLB Futures Game participant, is the fourth former Kentucky southpaw to pitch in the big leagues in 2013, joining Minnesota Twins starter Andrew Albers, Atlanta Braves reliever Scott Downs and Chicago Cubs starter Chris Rusin. Former UK All-America outfielder Collin Cowgill is also in the big leagues with the Los Angeles Angels.
Paxton will be the 28th former Kentucky player to advance to MLB, with a staggering total of 57 Kentucky player drafted or signed to free agent affiliated contracts since Gary Henderson arrived on campus in 2004. Overall, 156 UK players, dating back to 1965, have been drafted or signed contracts, with 36-percent of those coming with Henderson at UK. While Henderson has been at Kentucky, an average of 5.7 Kentucky players per year have been picked in the MLB Draft or signed a pro contract over the last 10 years, up from an average 2.53 players from 1965-2004.