Skip to main content

Spring training hasn’t even started yet, but there’s already plenty happening in the baseball world. We’ve already gone through a sign-stealing scandal and seen a blockbuster trade. Now, we have a significant injury as New York Yankees pitcher James Paxton underwent back surgery.

The procedure will keep the lefty out of action for three to four months. What will his absence mean for the New York Yankees?

James Paxton’s Major League Baseball Career

After growing up in British Columbia, Canada, James Paxton headed south to pursue his baseball career. The pitcher enrolled at the University of Kentucky and joined the Wildcats squad as a reliever; as a sophomore, he worked his way into the starting rotation and never looked back. Paxton truly arrived during his junior year, however. He struck out 115 batters and caught the eye of the Toronto Blue Jays, who selected him in the first round of the 2009 MLB draft.

While Paxton didn’t sign with the Blue Jays, he couldn’t return to Kentucky; the pitcher was declared ineligible for NCAA action since he had an agent. He then spent a year playing independent baseball for the Grand Prarie AirHogs before getting another shot at the big leagues. This time, the Seattle Mariners snagged the lefty in the fourth round.

After a few seasons in the minors, Paxton made his way to the show. He would spend six seasons with the Mariners, going 41-26 with a 3.42 ERA. The pitcher was then traded to the New York Yankees in November 2018; while he frequently struggled during the first inning, Paxton finished his first season in the Bronx 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA.

James Paxton goes under the knife

At the end of the 2019 regular season, James Paxton left a game with what the Yankees called a tight glute muscle. The pitcher a pain-killing injection, and he would go on to pitch in the postseason, but the issue apparently didn’t go away.

“He pitched extremely well, especially in Houston,” New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman explained. “But when he started ramping up his winter program about four weeks or so ago, he started feeling symptoms again.”

On Wednesday, Paxton underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy, which is the procedure used to treat ruptured or herniated discs. In the pitcher’s case, though, doctors also removed a peridiscal cyst removed that was causing Paxton pain. While there aren’t any concerns about the big lefty’s ability to make a full recovery, he’ll still miss three to four months of action.

What will this mean for the New York Yankees pitching rotation?

During the offseason, the New York Yankees finally addressed their pitching woes by signing Gerrit Cole in free agency. Paxton’s injury, however, will create a new hole in the rotation.

When Opening Day rolls around, Cole will be team’s undisputed ace, with Luis Severino taking over the number two spot; Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ should round out core group, with Jordan Montgomery probably serving as the fifth starter. Domingo German will also be in the mix eventually, but he’s suspended for the first 81 games of the season for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.

While losing a starter before the season begins isn’t ideal, the Yankees should be well equipped to deal with Paxton’s absence. Last year, the Bronx Bombers battled through countless injuries, so the next man up mentality won’t be anything new; if nothing else, they’ll have to lean on their offense a little bit more for the opening months of the season. As long as the club doesn’t panic into a short-sighted deal, this injury shouldn’t be more than a blip on the radar.

Thankfully for the New York Yankees, the MLB season is a marathon, not a sprint. Even if they stumble out of the gate without James Paxton, there will be plenty of time to turn things around.