James Paxton returning as reliever for postseason would be perfect for Yankees


If James Paxton returns to the Yankees, it’ll likely be as a reliever.

James Paxton‘s tenure with the New York Yankees didn’t go as planned, and the man cannot be faulted. General manager Brian Cashman went out and traded for the left-hander well aware of his injury history, and those issues continued in the Bronx.

Though he did make 29 starts last year, he was hampered with a knee ailment for most of the campaign. In 2020? Offseason back surgery got him off to a slow start, and then a flexor strain in his left forearm has him on the shelf until further notice.

Manager Aaron Boone said it would be “challenging” for Paxton to return before the playoffs after he experienced pain when throwing last week, which means only one thing: If the veteran does return at all, he’ll likely have to be used out of the bullpen during the postseason.

And that’s actually really good news for the Bombers.

There’s almost a 0% chance he’ll be able to build himself back up to start games if he’s unable to pitch before October, and the Yankees will not be throwing him out there as a starter if he hasn’t pitched in a real game since Aug. 20, especially as the rotation surges. It’s just not going to happen.

But the left-hander does have intriguing stuff to warrant usage out of the bullpen. Perhaps the Yankees bring him in for a tune-up when they’re up big or down big in their first postseason series, see how he does, and then utilize him in key situations. Right now, the bullpen doesn’t have a lower-leverage lefty to get the job done in the middle innings.

With his fastball, cutter, curve and changeup mix, he’d be a nightmare for opposing hitters in short spurts, even if he’s not throwing as hard as he’s accustomed to. And when you really look at his outings in 2020, they weren’t all that bad.

In his two starts against the Rays, the wheels came off late. In his two starts against the Red Sox, one was OK and the defense let him down in the other. We can ignore his bad outing against the Nats, which was his first of 2020. All in all, shorter spurts for Paxton, especially coming off this injury, could be more effective in helping him hone his stuff.

Though he’s had a mix of issues in 2020, whether that’s getting off to a slow start or crumbling in later innings, perhaps a shortened role with less pressure at first to ease him back into action could be beneficial for him (remember, he probably wants to boost his free-agent value in this contract year) and the Yankees’ bullpen.

It seems a little bit odd, but sometimes it’s the unconventional moves that end up yielding results.