Yankees: James Paxton out 3-4 months after undergoing surgery to remove a cyst in his back


The Yankees starting rotation will likely be without James Paxton until May at the earliest. The team announced on Wednesday that the left-hander underwent surgery in his back to remove a peridiscal cyst and the approximate timeline for his return is going to be 3 to 4 months.

Spring Training hasn’t even started yet and the Yankees have already suffered their first big injury of the season. Hopefully, this injury isn’t the start of a repeat from last season when New York ended up setting a major league record for most players on the IL in a single season. 

The injury to Paxton dates back to the end of last September when he first started feeling discomfort in his back during his final start of the regular season in Texas. After doctors recommended he’d be ok after receiving an injection he was given the clear to pitch during the postseason. He made three starts, posting a solid 3.46 ERA in 13 innings of work.

However, once he started his offseason throwing program he began to feel pain in his lower back again. Again doctors recommended another injection and a more conservative approach to rehabbing the injury, but clearly, that didn’t help. Now after undergoing surgery, Paxton won’t be able to resume throwing for another six weeks so we probably won’t see him back on the mound until May or June.

With Paxton out for an extended period of time the decision to not trade J.A. Happ this offseason looks like a very smart move by GM Brian Cashman. The Yankees have reportedly known about Paxton’s lingering back issues throughout the offseason and that’s part of the reason why Happ is still with the club and the team never really came close to dealing him this winter.

Cashman recently announced that Happ would be the team’s fifth starter entering the season but now he’ll enter camp as the fourth starter. Last year was a bad season for Happ although he finished the year very strong in September and October and is a strong bounce-back candidate at the back end of the Yankee rotation.

As for the fifth starter spot, there will be an open competition between Jordan Montgomery, Mike King, Deivi Garcia, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa according to the Yankees GM. Montgomery has to be the favorite given what he accomplished as a starter during his rookie campaign in 2017. He was terrific and now that he’s over a year and a half removed from TJ surgery he should be ready to pick up where he left off and cement himself a spot in the starting rotation for years to come.

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It will be interesting to see how King and Garcia perform this spring because the Yankees have high hopes for both of them. Neither one is likely going to make the club out of camp, but they could be in line for a call-up very early into the season if they impress in Tampa and then get off to a strong start at Triple-A Scranton.

Losing Paxton for the first couple months of the season isn’t ideal at all but the Yankees should be able to not only survive but thrive without him for the first couple months od the season. Their roster is stacked from top to bottom and no team in baseball is better at overcoming injuries than them.

They have the depth to replace Paxton in the short term and with Gerrit Cole now leading the starting staff and Luis Severino back healthy for a full season, the rotation is still going to be very good as long as everyone else can avoid the IL. Obviously, there’s really nothing positive about the news regarding Paxton’s injury, but at least the surgery happened before the season started and not during the middle of the summer.

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He’s dealt with a lot of injuries throughout his career and always seems to come back strong so there’s no reason to believe he won’t be able to do it again this year. And with this being a contract year for Paxton you know he’s going to be extra motivated to make a huge impact when he returns.