Yankees' James Paxton is 'Ready to Go' Whenever This Season Begins

Max Goodman

If baseball does return this summer, James Paxton will be available.

The Yankees' left-hander declared himself "ready to go" Friday morning, explaining that his back – after surgery in February – is a "non-issue."

"I think I'm back to full strength," Paxton told Meredith Marakovits of YES Network. "If a season was ready to start tomorrow, or Spring Training would be ready to start tomorrow, I'd be ready to be just like one of the other guys."

Paxton's clean bill of health is right on schedule. The southpaw underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy on February 5 to remove a peridiscal cyst in his lower back. At the time, he was expected to need three-to-four months to work his way back to Major League activity. 

The 31-year-old had resumed throwing before Spring Training was shut down in early March, working his way up to simulated games in the last few weeks. Paxton confirmed he's been mixing in new routines to ensure his back stays loose as he eases into throwing off a mound regularly.

"I was feeling really good playing catch, so that was a really good sign, but it's always different when you get on the mound," he said. "So, I was really interested to see how it was going to feel the next day and it turned out feeling really good. I never really had too many issues with the back after I kind of got going. It's been getting better and better. The velocity is getting better and better, breaking balls and stuff like that, getting a feel for my pitches."

Paxton revealed that he's been in touch with Yankees' pitching coach Matt Blake amid the coronavirus-induced hiatus. Based in Wisconsin, the lefty has been utilizing a private facility where he's thrown biweekly bullpens, often enlisting others to stand in the batter's box so he can visualize pitching to hitters. 

READ: How MLB's Old Schedule Makers Would Set Up Yankees Schedule in 2020

In the meantime, while the entire Yankees roster patiently awaits confirmation of whether or not there will be a season this year, Paxton is doing his best to improve. Now that he's healthy again, the left-hander is working on a new pitch and keeping himself busy and ready. 

"At some point, it will be a bit of a holding pattern because you can only go so far when you're not getting into a live game, facing other teams and getting that adrenaline going," he explained. "But I'm still trying to create more and more feel for my breaking balls, I'm working on a changeup that's actually coming out pretty good right now and just continuing to work on that repeatability of my delivery and my locations of my pitches."

The excitement for Paxton to take the field again, however, is growing.

"I cant wait," Paxton said. "I'm really excited to get back out there, feel the adrenaline, get in some competition. It'll be great once we get going again."

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For more from Max Goodman, follow him on Twitter @MaxTGoodman. Follow ITP on Twitter @SI_Yankees and Facebook @SIYankees

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