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March 4, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Wrapping up the day

As is often the case this time of year, the big news wasn’t so much what happened on the field but off of it, such as the long-awaited signing of left-handed pitcher and 2010 fourth-round pick James Paxton (pictured at right during his Kentucky days).
But to quickly cover what happened on the field, the Mariners lost 3-1 to the Reds, getting just five hits, none after the fifth, and just one extra-base hit, a double.
Doug Fister didn’t have his best day, allowing five hits and two runs in three innings and has given up four runs in five innings. Admittedly, too early to even really write about, though Fister did express a little concern over his throwing.
“It was a struggle to get the ball down,” he said. “I was up a little bit trying to get that sinker down, down and in to the right-handers. I’m struggling with it right now, just trying to get location back.”
He went on to say that: “It’s definitely a focus, one of the things trying to work on, and that’s the key to my strength to where I need to really focus on location before anything else. It’s a little bit, it’s just fine tuning, just a matter of a couple of tweaks here and there and just a matter of repetition. I feel like I’m getting there and able to do it, it’s just a matter of keeping it there and staying with it.”
Manager Eric Wedge didn’t sound too alarmed, either, saying ironing out such issues is what the spring is for and that: “It’s a little bit hit or miss (for him) today, but I liked the way he battled through it.”
As for the offense, no secret Seattle needs lots of improvement there, and so a few spring struggles are to be expected — the Mariners have scored one run in the last two games and five in the last three.
Said Wedge of the offense: “It’s still early. I think we’ve had occasion of young at-bats from some of our young kids. You’ve got a lot of people in here that are fighting for spots. I think that one thing we have to recognize is just are they pushing too hard or trying to do too much or being a litte too aggressive, too passive. A number of different things we are looking, and we still have the luxury of the fact it is still early. But ultimately we know we need to be a much better offensive ball club and we are doing everything behind the scenes to make sure that that happens.”
Now, for Paxton.

He was an intriguing pick by the Mariners last June in the fourth round, available after he didn’t sign the previous year when he was taken 39th overall (as a supplemental pick in the first round) by Toronto in 2009.
Because he was no longer college eligible, he was not subject to the Aug. 15 deadline last year, so the negotiations continued through the winter. Terms were undisclosed today (sure they will leak somewhere at some point) but Paxton said he couldn’t be happier. For one, he’s a native of Ladner, B.C., and grew up a Mariners’ fan. For another, he wanted to get going on his career.
“I’m excited to be here, this is awesome,” he said in a quick meeting with the press after the game against the Reds. “It couldn’t be any better than it is right now. I learned a lot about business the past two years, but I’m real glad to be here and get my career started and real glad to be a Seattle Mariner.”
He was said to touch 97 with his fastball and Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik also lauded his slider in talking to reporters today.
“The reports we got on him he’s got a nice slider,” the GM said. “We’ve had him in the mid-90s velocity wise, and you look at his numbers and they are impressive. Now he is a Mariner and we will watch him.
“It’s about adding talent any way you can, and we look at this one as another opportunity to take what we consider at draft time a quality left-handed pitcher and we took him where we took him, and now he’s another guy added to the fold, and it’s always nice to have a big left-handed starting pitcher.”
As that last quote indicates, the plan is for Paxton to be a starter.
He will be in the Major League camp beginning Saturday but is likely to soon head to the minor league camp, which begins next week. His signing gives Seattle 64 in the Major League camp right now.
His only pitching since the 2009 college season is four games in the independent league last year for Grand Prairie in the American Association.
Zduriencik said there wasn’t necessarily any deadline to signing Paxton but there was a desire to get him into this camp.
“We had a lot of discussions before Major League camp opened and weren’t able to come to an agreement at that point, and continued negotiations and now finally minor league camp is going to open soon,” the GM said. “He still has a chance to come in to get some work with the big league camp and (the Mariners can) see what he looks like, so it’s a nice little perk for him, and then we’ll return him to the minor leagues in due time and let him get the necessary work that he needs.”
Paxton, whose agent is Scott Boras, said he’s been working out at the Boras Training Institute in Aliso Viejo, Calif., and that he’s ready to go. But Zduriencik said the Mariners will take it slow.
“We’ll have to be careful and have to gauge it.” he said. “I just suspect that everyone is going to be very cautious with him. Talked about it for the last month or so that as soon as we come to an agreement, it’s a little bit different circumstance, a little unique. He’s a big, strong kid (listed at 6-4, 220 at Kentucky) but we are going to let it run its course.”
The Mariners play Cleveland here in Peoira tomorrow at noon Seattle time.



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