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Originally published July 19, 2014 at 8:28 PM | Page modified July 19, 2014 at 10:44 PM

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James Paxton takes another positive step in possible return to Mariners

Pitcher expected to make a rehab start for Rainiers on Tuesday

Seattle Times staff reporter

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — James Paxton was back with the Mariners on Saturday as he threw a bullpen session before the game.

He was happy with how his shoulder felt. Unlike his previous rehab stint where he felt pain in his shoulder after the first outing, this time he had no soreness the following day.

“Nothing this time,” he said. “I feel great. The bullpen went great. We’re rolling.”

Paxton thought his first rehab outing in Everett was a good start to his path back to the rotation.

“It wasn’t bad,” he said. “I felt like the ball was coming out really well. I had no pain at all, so that was great. I started getting a little feel back for some of my pitches. I had that adrenaline jump and I was kind of all over the place.”

He’ll start for Class AAA Tacoma on Tuesday at Cheney Stadium. He’s expected to throw around 60 pitches. He also expects to be a little better.

“Some of the execution stuff, throwing more strikes with my off-speed and even my fastball,” he said. “I just want to get to the point where I’m starting to hit my spots a little better with my pitches.”

While Paxton will join Tacoma next week, his buddy, Taijuan Walker. made another start for the Rainiers on Friday in Reno. He pitched five innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with three walks and a strikeout in the Rainiers’ 7-3 victory over the Aces. Walker needed 90 pitches to make it through five innings and was aided by three ground-ball double plays.

“He was OK,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s working at it. He’s getting better.”

Walker’s fastball command is still a concern.

“It wasn’t too good,” McClendon said. “This game is all about fastball command. And when you don’t have command of the fastball, you are going to throw a lot of pitches. He was OK. He battled. But he wasn’t great.”

Notes

• After the 16-inning game Friday, it’s no surprise that Mike Zunino was given the day off. Jesus Sucre got the start. It was the first time this season that someone other than Zunino caught Felix Hernandez. Sucre had caught Hernandez in the past during spring training.

• McClendon said the reason he pulled Hisashi Iwakuma after seven innings and 77 pitches Friday night was fatigue. Iwakuma admitted he was laboring and felt out of rhythm from the four days off. It led to him wearing down. “The bottom line, he was tired,” McClendon said. “He was done. He was tired. He was ready to come out of the game. I’d be a fool to take a guy out after 77 pitches. The ups and downs and long innings, it wore on him. He was tired.” Iwakuma has made nine starts this season where he didn’t walk a batter. That’s the second most in all of baseball, behind Phil Hughes of the Twins, who has 11.

Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or rdivish@seattletimes.com.

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