The Yankees on Wednesday announced that left-handed starter James Paxton will be sidelined for the next three to four months after undergoing back surgery. According to the team, Paxton underwent microscopic lumbar discectomy with removal of a peridiscal cyst, and the surgery was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett in Dallas.
Paxton, 31, is coming off a 2019 season in which he pitched to a 3.82 ERA with 186 strikeouts and 55 unintentional walks in 150 2/3 innings for the Yankees. For his career, Paxton owns an ERA+ of 117 and a K/BB ratio of 3.60 across parts of seven major league seasons. The Yankees originally acquired him from the Mariners in November 2018. Paxton is slated for free agency after the upcoming season.
Paxton has a significant injury history. Since the start of the 2014 season, Paxton has been on the injured list eight separate times. Last season, he missed time with left knee inflammation. Paxton dealt with lower back problems in 2018 and also lat and forearm issues in his past. This latest malady means he could be out of action until early June and perhaps longer if he suffers a setback.
The Yankees still have ace Gerrit Cole at the front end after signing him to a $324 million contract. As well, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino return to the rotation. J.A. Happ will be at the back end, but now the Yankees must find a fifth starter until Paxton returns. Right-hander Chad Green could be pulled from the bullpen, and Jonathan Loaisiga and Jordan Montgomery are also still in the system.
Last season, the Yankees en route to 103 wins and the division title gave starts to 12 different pitchers and at least 15 starts to six different pitchers. In that sense, such upheavals are familiar. Losing Paxton for such a chunk of time and throwing him off his ramp-up routine, however, is a significant blow.