James Paxton remains without a target date as far as debuting with the Boston Red Sox.
But the veteran left-hander seemingly has made significant strides in recent days, giving hope that he’ll return to a major league mound before the end of the 2022 season.
The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier confirmed a report that Paxton reached 95 mph Friday during a simulated game in Fort Myers, Fla. According to Speier, Paxton threw his entire pitch mix.
This was the second time Paxton faced live hitters in recent days, as the 33-year-old also pitched a two-inning sim game on Wednesday. It’s still unclear when Paxton will begin a rehab assignment, let alone debut with Boston, but he’s clearly inching toward a return from Tommy John surgery he underwent in April 2021.
That’s obviously good news for the Red Sox, even if they eventually fade in the American League playoff race as we progress through August and head toward September. Paxton has been limited to just six starts (21 2/3 innings) dating back to 2019, but he was one of the AL’s best pitchers when healthy — first with the Seattle Mariners (2013-18) and then with the New York Yankees (2019-20) — and, in theory, could be a major contributor for Boston in 2023 and 2024.
The Red Sox signed Paxton as a free agent back in December. The deal reportedly was a one-year, $6 million guarantee that also included a club option covering 2023 and 2024. If Boston exercises its option this winter, Paxton will be in line to earn $26 million ($13 million per year) over the next two seasons.
It’s an interesting contract, but one that has the potential to pay dividends if Paxton returns and recaptures some of his old mojo. The 6-foot-4 lefty went 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA, a 3.86 FIP, a 1.281 WHIP and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings across 29 starts (150 2/3 innings) in 2019, his most recent full season.
Paxton, who turns 34 in November, is 57-33 with a 3.59 ERA, a 3.31 FIP, a 1.212 WHIP and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 137 career appearances (all starts).