Mariners ace James Paxton is headed to the disabled list, but it could be a lot worse

The Seattle Mariners received a fright on Thursday when ace James Paxton left his start after 17 pitches due to what was later deemed lower back stiffness.

On Friday, general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed Paxton is headed to the disabled list for the sixth time in his big-league career. While no team wants their top starter injured, even the M's have to concede this is as close to well-timed as a trip to the DL can get without being fake:

With the All-Star Game occurring on Tuesday, the regular season will pause from Monday until Friday night for most teams. (The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs will play both on Thursday night and Friday afternoon.) As such, many teams are using the extended break to option a starter, freeing up a roster spot for the interim period without impacting their rotation.

Shy of Christian Bergman, who is filling in on Friday for the injured Felix Hernandez on Friday, the Mariners have a rotation full of pitchers who cannot be optioned. By disabling Paxton, the Mariners can add a player who otherwise would not have been available to them for the next three games. Is that a great advantage? Not really, but it does grant them more flexibility.

The bigger deal here is curbing Paxton's workload. Even with Thursday's truncated appearance, he's now 17 innings short of matching his career high at the big-league level (136). Conservative estimates of Paxton's burden the rest of the way would still place him at or above his single-season high of 171 innings, which he accumulated between the majors and minors in 2016. Depending on how deep the Mariners go in the postseason, Paxton could well have to make an additional couple of starts then as well. Giving him extra rest now, then, seems like a smart call.

So long as Paxton's back doesn't continue to act up -- and there's no telling for certain -- this DL stint might work out in Seattle's favor over the long haul. 

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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