Yankees lefty James Paxton progressing well following back surgery

Because of the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, we don't know when Opening Day of the 2020 MLB season will be. Whenever it does come to pass, perhaps the Yankee rotation won't be quite as compromised as we once thought. 

To recap, yes, the Yankees added ace of aces Gerrit Cole via free agency, but they also lost James Paxton to back surgery and Luis Severino to Tommy John surgery. Severino won't pitch at all in 2020, but Paxton will be available once he fully recovers from his Feb. 5 procedure. Initially, it was thought he'd miss at least the first two months of the season, but with the sport on ice indefinitely it's becoming more and more possible that he'll be ready for (belated Opening Day). 

Paxton resumed playing catch on March 11, and during the shutdown he's continued to make good progress. Here's the latest on his recovery: 

So here's another promising sign. Initially, Paxton had a three- to four-month timetable for a return to game action, which translates to a potential return in May. These promising early returns raise the possibility that Paxton will be ready toward the front end of that timetable. Beyond that, it's looking increasingly unlikely that we'll have baseball in May. Indeed, early July may be shaping up as the most realistic target date for Opening Day. If that's the case, then Paxton barring setback will likely be ready to go for the start of the season. That will be huge for a rotation that's somewhat stretched without Severino. 

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. 

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. So even once he returns he'll remain an injury risk, but the possibility of having the lefty for the entirety of 2020 is something that seemed impossible not so long ago. Now, it's very much in play. 

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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