James Paxton is on the verge of his first Major League game in over two years, as Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) that Paxton will join the team this week. Paxton won’t start during Boston’s upcoming two-game series with the Braves, which indicates that he’ll pitch at some point during the three-game series between the Cardinals and Red Sox from May 12-14.
Paxton underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2021 as a member of the Mariners, but the Red Sox made something of a speculative move by signing the left-hander to a free agent deal during the 2021-22 offseason. That contract contained a pair of club options (each worth $13MM) for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, but also a $4MM player option Paxton could exercise if the Sox declined those club options. With Paxton missing the entire 2022 campaign due to both his TJ rehab and then a lat tear, Boston indeed declined its club options, and Paxton triggered his $4MM option to ultimately make his deal a two-year, $10MM pact overall.
If those past injuries weren’t enough, Paxton also had a Game 1 hamstring strain during Spring Training that delayed his ramp-up period to the point that another 15-day IL stint was required to begin the 2023 season. Pitching in six games at Triple-A Worcester during his rehab, Paxton has a 6.23 ERA over 21 2/3 innings, largely due to one disastrous outing (the only relief appearance of his six games) that saw him tagged for seven runs in two-thirds of an inning on April 19. In his last two rehab starts, Paxton allowed only two runs over 10 1/3 total innings, and he topped the 90-pitch threshold in both games.
The Red Sox don’t play on either Monday or Thursday, and they also have off-days on May 18, 25, and 29th. This gives the club some flexibility in how they arrange their pitching staff when Paxton returns, and Garrett Whitlock is also expected to be activated from the 15-day injured list this week. Cora said the Sox are considering the possibility of a six-man rotation to accommodate a full rotation, though the preponderance of upcoming off-days could lead to some extended time between starts if the Red Sox did try a larger rotation.